I had a really good marathon this weekend in Grand Rapids, Michigan with almost perfect marathon weather. This was my 25th marathon and I was able to run my 3rd fastest time with a time of 3:45:03. This was my second Grand Rapids Marathon, the last one being in 2007, and I have to say it was just as much fun as the first time.
Paul, Mike, and I left Milwaukee on Saturday just before Noon and headed down around Chicago and back up the other side of Lake Michigan to Grand Rapids. While it is only 117 miles from Milwaukee to Grand Rapids across the lake, it is 262 miles by roads. ugh! We arrived at the Expo just after 5:00 eastern time and went through the quite small expo very quickly. It is a smaller race so I didn't expect much for an Expo. I did find Don Kern, the race director, and gave him a 6 pack of a local micro brew as he likes to drink micro brews and lots of runner give this to him. After a brief chat, Paul, Mike and I headed to the hotel that was maybe 1/4 mile from the Expo/Start/Finish area. Good pick on the hotel, Paul!
Here is a view of the Start/Finish area from our hotel room.
We relaxed a bit before heading to a local restaurant for a little carbo loading with a big bowl of Fettuccine Alfredo and some good bread sticks. We headed back to the hotel and were able to watch the Wisconsin Badgers beat #1 Ohio State in TV before crashing for the night.
I woke up early on race day to let my body do what it needs to do before long runs and races and we ended up heading to the start line about 20 minutes before the start. Paul had to go back and get his watch so I didn't see him again until during the race. Start conditions were great. Mid 40's, clear skies, little wind.
Mike and I started together for about 10 feet before he was gone. He had a bad hamstring but thought he could maybe pull out a fast race. He did. My goal was to join the 3:44 pace group and hang on. The first 3 miles I felt quite sluggish for some reason, the pace group seemed like they were going really fast. I kept them in eye shot and then started feeling better by mile 4. The garmin said I was right on pace so I wasn't too concerned they were ahead of me. I kept a lot to myself and just tried to relax.
My garmin was off some (actually I was borrowing Mike's) and by the half, it said 13.25 miles so I was actually a little off pace and I went though the half marker in 1:53. We headed over the Grand River and went down a very large bike path for 2 out and backs. It warmed enough for me to take off my long sleeve shirt and just wear the singlet. The cool air felt like a relief for awhile. The path was very wide and it was fun (and depressing) to see the leaders pass going the other way many miles ahead. On the other hand, it was fun to see others behind me after I passes the turn around. Mike flew by me about 2 miles ahead of me still looking strong. I also saw Paul finally and he was about 4 minutes ahead of me.
At mile 14 or so, I took some salt and decided to make a slow push to catch the 3:44 pace group. My goal was to catch them by mile 20 as they were maybe 1:30 ahead of me. My legs were sore a bit already but I didn't come here to feel good the whole race. By mile 18, I was at the back of the pace group. By mile 20, I decided to go ahead of the group a little and see what I had. Earlier in the race I saw a sign that said "Trust your Training". It stuck with me so I did trust it. This part of the course was completely flat so fast running was easy. Just before the 2nd turn around, I saw Paul, he was only 1:50 ahead of me.
I had something weird happen at the turn around. I got just past it and wanted to get up to speed right away and was passing some lady who must not have liked that. She had plenty of room but yet elbowed me intentionally. Not sure why, I just ignored it and kept pushing. I knew I was getting closer to Paul so I kept looking for him ahead. Behind me, I kept hearing the pace group leaders encouraging the other runners as I could not drop them. At mile 23, I heard we were right on pace for a 3:44. I saw Paul and caught him at about mile 23 1/2 at a water stop. We stopped for a short walk break and he told me his hamstring had enough and he was going as fast as it would allow him without breaking. I said good luck and tried to take off and catch the pace group who kept going at the water stop. My legs now were having trouble and I just couldn't catch the group. I though I would get them in a final push when I saw the finish line in the distance but no such luck.
I did get to do one thing special in the final blocks. I found Waldo! Waldo was running the marathon and was in the pace group so I saw him frequently during the race. He passed me with about 2 blocks to go and I couldn't get him. Oh well! So I crossed the line in 3:34:03, gave Don Kern, Race Director, a bro-hug, and then tried to get my balance. Took me a bit but then I saw Paul finish 2 minutes behind me and found Mike who ran a 3:22.
The post race area was well stocked with water, Gatorade, string cheese, honey milk, Culver's Custard as well as lots of fruit. Paul and Mike found the beer but were denied as the keg ran out as they were in line. We decided to walk to the hotel and shower up before returning for beer and chili. Ends up we didn't go back and decided to head home instead. We did stop in Benton Harbor on the way home for a big lunch. Chicago traffic sucked, as usual, but home at least.
All in all, I really like this race. It is one of my favorite marathons out there and maybe my #1. The course is mostly flat and very fast. Lots of the course was shade covered so the sunny day was not a problem until the last 2 1/2 miles. The bike path portion of the course as well as the run through millenium park was beautiful. The expo isn't big but has what you need. The parts run though the city have lots of crowd support and the parts in the parks had good and loud cheering sections. The pace groups ran really well and were very supportive. The race director knows what he is doing and has all the right people helping out. While there is not control on the weather, I have run twice here in almost perfect conditions so climatically it is good! The medal is a really heavy and thick with special lanyard. Post race food was good and plentiful, except for the keg running out when we wanted a brew. I totally recommend this race and will most likely do it again someday. It doesn't hurt that my #2 and #3 all time fastest times were here.
I took a look at my garmin splits. It said I ran 26.5 miles and I ran the tangents as much as possible. But overall, I ran an 8:35 pace and actually negative split the race by about a minute. I was very consistent with only 2 miles at 9:00 and 9:02 with all others in the 8's. I guess I did trust my training and it turned out it was good. I think I could have run a little faster if the legs were not so sluggish at the start, but if I did start out faster, I may have crashed at the end.
My quads are sore today so I am resting them a few days. I do only have 12 days until the next marathon, I know, I am crazy, so I will work on my goals for that one next week. It is a tougher course so I may go out a little slower.
Thanks for all the well wishes on the race!