Sunday, October 11, 2009

Race Report - Whistle Stop Marathon

No suspense today. I did not run great but I ran good and finished in 3:55:47. A Sub 4!

I woke up at 5:00 AM to after a restless night. I get that a lot the night before a marathon. I guess I am just excited about the race all the time. Anyways, I looked outside and saw that the snow was flying. As you can see from the picture, it was blowing pretty good as well.

After a big bowl of oatmeal, I left at about 6 to drive to Ashland. The drive was a little nervous as the snow was blowing pretty good, it was still dark out so in the lights of the car, it made it a little difficult to see. Add to that the roads were not dry, a touch icy, and it made for a slower drive in. I get to Ashland safely and board the bus to go to the start line.

At the starting area, there is about an inch of snow on the ground and it was (I am guessing) 28F out. A bunch of us are in a lodge house waiting for the start and one guy really made the mood light by saying to another runner "So, are you running this race barefoot?" That cracked us all up.
Out at the start line, about 2 minutes before the start as everyone is lined up, a gust of wind blows a bunch of the snow from the trees down on us. That woke everyone else up who could possibly been sleepy still. The race started on time at 9:00AM and off we all went. The first 1.75 miles was on a road going to the trail we would run for most of the race. At times, it was icy and we all had to be cautious not to slip and fall. I didn't see anyone fall so that was good.

I get to the trail and discover that there is snow on it but at least a little packed down since there are a bunch of runners ahead of me. The trail is pretty soft though, it is like running on a soft cinder track. This caused a few problems during the race as the little pebbles were flying and quite a few got into my shoes while running. I saw many people stop to remove their shoes to get the pebbles out, but of all the pebbles I had in my shoes, it never quite got to the point of me stopping to do so.

My ultimate goal in this race was to run a time of 3:45 but after about 10 miles, I knew that 3:45 was not going to happen. I had a tendon in my leg that was a little sore but not bad. My quads were a little tired as well but not enough to slow down yet. I went through 10 at 1:26:55 and now it was time for the 13 miles of downhill. Let me tell you, it never seemed like we were ever going downhill. I think the soft surface took any advantage of a slight downhill away.

By mile 18, I was still going all miles sub 9 pace but now it when I usually have trouble. I was still relaxed but the pace went from sub 9's to 9:00 to 9:35 through mile 23. On my pace band I made, I also wrote down at what points all the aid stations were and this helped because I forced myself to NOT do any walk breaks when there wasn't an aid station. Just at the Garmin beeped Mile 23, there was an aid station, and there also was one at 23.9 so I had a very slow mile there with 2 breaks (10:32).

Now I was getting worried about not being able to break 4 hours if I had a meltdown. I really didn't want ANOTHER meltdown. I started to attempt to do some math in my head as to what pace I needed to run to still break 4. I knew it was a little over 10 minute miles and that my last mile was slow so I tried to focus more and pick up the pace and it started to work.

At 24.5 miles, we leave the cinder trail and start on a paved trail going into Ashland. All day it was quite windy out but even with the wind primarily going the direction the race was going, it didn't factor at all since the entire race up until here was all protected from the trees. But at 24.5, the trail opened up and the wind felt great on our backs. This helped even more and I started passing people. Mile 25 was back down to 9:03 and I decided to just skip the aid station at mile 25 and pour it on. While it hurt at this point, I knew the finish was minutes away. I continued passing people which helped a lot until the finish line.

After the race, it was cold, no, I take that back, it was @#$% cold. The winds were blowing hard and the temperature was in the low 30's so that combined with the sweat I built up made lots of shivering until I could warm up inside. After a warm shower and some hot chocolate, it was time for the long 6+ hour drive home. I was able to get home by 8:45.

Here are some of my thoughts about the race (not my race). This was a nice smaller marathon. I think there was just under 900 finishers. While I can't fault them at all for the weather and snow, it was a small factor in the race. The race is run for 22+ miles on a cinder trail that is quite wide but very soft and not ideal for a fast running time. It does drop 500 or so feet from miles 9 to 23, but I could not feel this at all. The soft cinder trail did cause issues with a lot of runner I saw and not just being slow. Lots of little pebbles made it into shoes and that was a problem. The course did prove to be quite beautiful running through all the trees and forests and over quite a few trestles. There were not many people cheering on the runners as there were not too many places they could get to. The trail is just too far off the roads. The last 1/4 mile of the course was a bit ridiculous though. I think there was 6 turns in the last 1/4 mile so you did not see the finish line until about 50 meters before it. I would prefer a longer straight away to the finish line. The participants in the race were fun to run with. Some were talkative and encouraging as we went along. The aid stations were nice for the size of the race and they really braved it out in the cold. Thanks for being there! It was so cold that at the first 2 water stops, my water cup had a very thin layer of ice. The volunteers were great!

The start area was small and because it was so cold, there wasn't much room to stay warm in the lodge. There was plenty of portolets at the start area, a line that looked long at first moved very fast before the race. If you are looking for a nice expo, this is not the race to come to. An area to buy some running apparel and one other marathon advertising. the pre-race pasta and fish boil dinner was good though. I had a nice sized plate of spaghetti which was quite tasty.

Overall I would say that this is a nice race but not a great race. I am not sure I will be coming back but it is possible. I do like trying new races though.

I am happy with my time. It would be hard to complain since I hadn't broken 4 hours in my last 9 marathons though I still believe I should be able to run about 3:40 to 3:45. Maybe the next one!

The race expo and pasta dinner was held in a hockey arena on the board covered ice rink. Now that is what northern Wisconsin is all about.

As you can see, the car had some snow on it before I left in the morning.


Mark said...

Hooray!! Nice race, Bill! And congrats on the great time!!!

Beth said...

Nice job in some tough conditions! Those rocks in my shoes would drive me crazy. Thanks for telling all about this race. It's one that I've been thinking about doing so I'm glad to get some more information about it. Very nice time- Congratulations!

Melanie said...

Wow, I can't even imagine that kind of snow.