Monday, May 21, 2012

Race Review - Fargo 13.1

This was my third half marathon. I did the other two last year with my sister in FL, and the next one will be at the end of a triathlon. I signed up for this one because my wife and sister-in-law were going to be in it, and my wife's family would be there to watch the kids. This race is actually several races spread over two days 5k on Friday, 10k, half marathon and full marathon on Saturday.

The Training
I am not specifically training for any running races. Having said that it seems like the bulk of my training for the last four months has been pretty run focused, and it's definitely had a positive impact on running speed and confidence. It also helps to have this distance and further under by belt a few times.

Packet Pickup
Just got our packets, heading over to the expo
We went to packet pickup as soon as we got to Fargo on Friday night. It was at the Fargodome which was also the central site for the run, it would start and end there. Getting to the "dome" (because we didn't know we were there until we saw the sign, because it's not a dome ;) took some time due to traffic related to the 5k, and possibly some sort of meal. Once we were there we found our way down to main floor, picked up our packets and then headed over to the expo (also on the main floor.) The expo was pretty decent, we probably would have liked to stay longer, but we needed to get back to the hotel for dinner. I did manage to sneak away to get a car magnet for my wife that I would stick on her car after she finished, she loves that kind of stuff :)

After that we headed back to the hotel to hang at the pool and have some pizza.

Race Morning
Like every single race I've ever been in I had a terrible time sleeping. I tried to go to bed with my son at 8ish, but then woke up around 9 or 9:30 and ended up staying up till around midnight. After that I slept till 4, then got up to help with the crying baby, and ended up getting another cat nap before 5 when we were planning on getting up.

My wife and I got up, got dressed, and headed down to grab a bite to eat. My sister-in-law and uncle-in-law met us for breakfast. A funny thing happened at breakfast, everyone else we saw was from Canada. They had tattoos and thick Canadian accents and everything, it was pretty surreal.

We headed over to the dome, there was almost no traffic this time, we saw some thunderstorms brewing complete with lightening strikes in the distance. Based on what I thought the weather forecast was I was pretty sure the rain/storms would come and pass before the race started. But there was a small amount of talk about if we'd be allowed to run in a thunderstorm. We got to the dome with plenty of time to spare, took a bathroom break, and then just hung out chatting. I really like the pre-race hang out.
The three racers - nerves were a plenty
Pre-race, I did not wear that shirt during the run. And due to clouds I  didn't need the sunglasses either, but they did make the trip.

The Start
There were three races on Saturday morning. A 10k, our half-marathon, and a full marathon. The 10k went first, 15 minutes later the half marathon, and 15 minutes after that the full marathon. We found our way to the start area before the 10k start, they did a prayer, sung the Canadian national anthem and then the US national anthem. After that we lined up for the start. I thought it was pretty well organized. They had big signs with time ranges that you could use to sign up. So I went up to the area my pace was at it was something like 1:40 - 2:00. And I found a pacer who was advertising 8:23 miles. I figured I should set up a little in front of him, and if he passed me I would try to hang with him.

There was a funny little thing about the start, they did a prayer and sang the national anthems again. I did not expect that at all. After all that was done, we started, and the entire group of people moved along pretty good.

The Run
Some days before the race I told my wife that she could wear my Garmin watch during the race. I figured since I had run a race like this before that I would be able to use a pacer, or use the periodic time posts to gauge my progress. This was sort of double-edged sword, on the one hand it was sort of freeing to not being able to always know how fast you're running. On the other hand, if you're used to it, or have a specific pace in mind, it's not that comforting to not being able to check whenever you want.

At the first mile the group was still pretty close together, and I just asked someone how much time had passed. She said eight minutes, and then suggested that we may have started far apart. I thought, how much gap could have been created in the first mile? I smiled and said it was close enough. So far I was about 20 seconds ahead a my goal pace, but the first mile tends to be fast so I just kept going. At this point I started picking out people to target as people I wanted to stay with.

Around mile two the group had spread out a little more so I didn't see anyone checking a GPS watch, but I did hear two people behind me chatting about their pace. They said they were on 7:50 pace... if that's right I'm now just over a minute ahead of my goal. I was feeling just fine, so I just kept going. It wasn't too long after this that these people cruised past me down a hill, I though to myself, that's not going to happen again. Nobody passed me going down a hill again.

This course is described as fast and flat by the organizers, and it was pretty flat. The only times we came across hills it was to go over or under bridges.

Over the next couple of miles I kept passing my targets and it was making me feel pretty good so I just kept the strong pace. At this point I had no idea how fast I was going, but I didn't feel tired or feel like I was slowing so I just kept steady as what I thought was a pretty aggressive pace and tried not to think about what might happen eight or nine miles down the road.

Around mile five I guy I knew from the Alex triathlon passed me, it was the guy who swam in the same lane as me. I ran up next to him, got his attention and said hi. At the triathlon he ran faster than me, so I just assumed he'd continue to pull away. But I was feeling well, so I thought, I'll just keep up as long as I could, so I picked up the pace. Much to my surprise I passed him right around the 10k mark, and I didn't see him any after that. Speaking of the 10k mark, when I got there I was a surprising 5 minutes ahead of pace. This was, and would be, the only non-finish timer on the race course.

The next four miles went along pretty easy, though seriously mile seven seemed to go on forever, I literally thought they had misplaced the eight mile marker it went on so long. So it was a small blow to my ego when I was expecting to see the nine mile marker and it was an eight. At about mile 10 I was feeling pretty good and decided that I was going to start picking up the pace. There was a guy near me who was helping motivate me since he had caught me and passed me recently.

At about 11.5 we hit a segment of the course when there was a small loop, and you could see people who were about a mile ahead of a you. I was hoping to see Stu's daughter Sarah, originally I was thinking she would finish about 15 minutes ahead of me, but since I had been on pace to finish 10 minutes sooner I thought I might see her, which would have really made me feel good. I did not see her. Something that surprised me at this point was the number of walkers I was passing. From past races I know that most people finish between 2 hours and 2:10, people ahead of that are in the top 30%, so to see people walking was surprising.

The Finish
With about a mile to go I really stepped up the pace, I was feeling great and was excited to see what my time was. I had dropped the guy who passed me two miles previous, and was basically just passing people. I don't remember being passed by anyone at that time.

We ran around the Fargodome, I saw my mother-in-law and my two oldest kids. I ran over and said hi and then ran into the dome and across the finish line. The time on the clock was surprising. I didn't know exactly what it meant since I wasn't sure when I crossed the start line, but no matter what I had beat my goal.

I was a little out of sorts, someone handed me a water and put a medal around my neck. I grabbed some cookies, and then I back out to cheer on the the other two runners.

The finish line is inside in a arena. Since the weather (dry and mid-50s) was great running weather, its not great spectating weather this helps keep people warm

We're done!

Nice medal

The Results

Overall Place426 / 5,746
Division Place47 / 315

Closing Comments
So I'm very happy with this. It's a personal best and it means that the effort I've been putting is paying off.

It was a ton of fun racing with family, after I got done with my race I headed back out on the course and cheered my sister-in-law and wife toward the finish of their first half marathon. It is not a small accomplishment and I am very proud of them.

I also want to say thanks to all of the family that came out and shared the weekend with us. It, of course, it always better to have people you know at the end of the race to cheer you on.

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