Happy Memorial Day. My sincerest thanks and appreciation for all who have served in the United States Armed Forces and sacrificed for our freedom.
Well, I did it. I ran the Bayshore Marathon in Traverse City, MI on Saturday – my first marathon! I survived, and I had a lot of fun. That does not mean I thought all 26.2 miles were a blast, but I absolutely enjoyed the overall experience.
The day before:
My wife and I headed up to Traverse City the afternoon before the race so we would have plenty of time to get to the packet pick up before it got too hectic, then have time to get dinner, and relax. The packet pick up was in a high school gymnasium and was very well organized. We picked up our bibs and bags at one end of the gym, then went to the other end of the gym to get our shirts. It was a very quick process, and I think having separate tables for bibs and shirts helped speed things up. There wasn’t much of an expo at the race, but I was told that ahead of time so I wasn’t expecting a big expo. We randomly happened to see some family members as we were walking into the packet pick up, one of whom was running his first 10K, so we chatted with them for a while after we got our bibs and shirts. I don’t like to eat much before a race, so I had a pretty light dinner. I had a big breakfast the morning before the race and I made sure to eat throughout the day. I just don’t like eating a huge meal the evening before a morning race – my stomach is usually my biggest concern when running, and pigging out 12 hours before a race certainly wouldn’t help.
We were very happy to finally meet Alexis from Get 2 Fit 2 Quit and her husband Nate when we got back to the hotel after picking up our packets and getting dinner. My wife and I have known Alexis for several months through Twitter, but we hadn’t met her in person or run any of the same races before Bayshore.
The day of:
For some reason, I slept better the night before the race than I do before most races. I never sleep well before races, and I figured the night before my first marathon would be no exception. Luckily I slept OK, and while my alarm went off pretty early, I felt rested enough when I woke up. I got up about three-and-a-half hours before the start of the race so I could eat a little bit – a Honey Stinger Waffle, a banana, and a few Clif Shot Bloks – and drink some water and sports drink. I went back to bed for about 45 more minutes before I got up for good, and then it was time to get ready and go.
My wife ran the half marathon, which started near the midpoint of the out-and-back marathon course, and she had to catch a shuttle bus from the marathon start/finish line to the half marathon start line. Because of the need to get so many runners out to the start of the half marathon course before the marathon started, the last shuttle for half marathoners was supposed to leave at 6:15 a.m. (the marathon started at 7:00 and the half marathon started at 7:30). My wife understandably wanted to avoid the last minute rush, so we got to the shuttle pick up location around 5:30. We had no problem finding parking, and the shuttle line wasn’t too long at that point so it worked out very well for us. After she left, I went into the nearby gym and relaxed for a few minutes during the last-minute packet pick up. It was eerily quiet considering that there were several people in there…I guess it was the calm before the storm.
I started to get restless, so I left the gym and headed toward the marathon start line about a quarter mile away when I realized that the line for the half marathon shuttle had gotten at least 10 times longer during the 15 or 20 minutes I was in the school. I was very pleasantly surprised when I heard my name as I was walking past the shuttle line. Luckily, two family members who were running the half marathon had spotted me. I knew they were running, but I had no idea if they had already gotten on a shuttle, and I had given up trying to spot them in the huge line. One of them was coming off a great marathon PR just the week before, and his daughter was running her first half (she ended up placing in her age group – very awesome!). I chatted with them until they got near the front of the shuttle line. It was great catching up with them, and it really helped keep me calm during the down time before a race when there isn’t much to do except think about the race. I also saw Megan from Watch MeGo Run, who was running her first marathon, too. We had missed each other at the packet pick up, so it was nice seeing her before the race because it can get so hectic trying to find people after races. We were able to catch up a bit, and it was time for the National Anthem before we knew it. There weren’t pacers running the marathon, but there were signs next to the start corral directing people where to line up by pace. I had no problem finding a spot in the corral, and then it was time to go.
Time went by really quickly for me, and it was time to run before I knew it.
I started out very conservatively because of my hip flexor injury and because I had a lot of pain on my easy run Thursday morning. I kept a consistent pace through 5K and then got a few seconds per mile faster through the 10-mile mark. I got a little faster from miles 10-15, and the only issue I had to that point was my hip flexor flaring up around mile 11. I was thrilled that the pain held off that long, and luckily it wasn’t bad once it did show up. I felt great through the 15-mile mark and was having no problem gradually improving my pace, then both legs started to tighten up around the same time. It wasn’t awful, but it gradually increased over the next few miles to the point where both hamstrings and both calves felt like they could cramp at any time. My legs felt worse with each mile after 17, and my splits definitely reflected that. I kept plodding along until somewhere around the 24.5-mile mark when one of my hamstrings finally cramped up. I had to stop for a couple minutes to wait it out and stretch, but I was able to get going again and fortunately didn’t have any more cramps though both legs continued to feel trashed until the end. The race finished on a high school track, and I was able to pick up my pace a bit over the last quarter mile or so to finish relatively strong.
Other than the legs issues I mentioned above, I felt great throughout the race. I didn’t feel dizzy, disoriented, or dehydrated at all during the race. I took four Hammer gels with me – two without caffeine and two with caffeine. I had used them on some long runs and during the Borgess Half Marathon a few weeks ago with no problems, so I felt very comfortable using them for Bayshore. I took the non-caffeinated ones around miles 9-10 and 14, and the caffeinated ones around miles 18-19 and 23. I decided to not carry a water bottle; instead, I made sure to get water or Gatorade at every water stop, even if I only sipped or rinsed my mouth at some of those stops. I timed it so I took each gel just before a water stop and could get a full cup of water to wash it down. I also grabbed a cup from the “Not H2O” stand I saw in the last couple of miles. I figured, “Why not?” as it was my first marathon, I wanted to enjoy the entire experience, and it was close to the finish. Miraculously, I had absolutely no stomach problems during the marathon despite it being my longest run by more than eight miles. So my biggest pre-race fears – my stomach and my hip flexor – weren’t issues at all. If only my hamstrings and calves would’ve held up over the last 11 miles, haha…
The course is beautiful. Much of it is run along the East Arm of the Grand Traverse Bay on the Old Mission Peninsula, and it’s very scenic. Much of the course is shaded, the views of the water are spectacular, and there are some great-looking homes along the course. The spectator support was excellent, with people lining the course in several places. There’s limited access to much of the course though, especially once it starts winding up the Old Mission Peninsula, so there were a lot of places that weren’t easily accessible to spectators who didn’t live in the area or have a bike. But there were some “official” spectator locations that were accessible via shuttle bus, and those spots were filled with loud spectators. It was much appreciated, especially on the second half of the course.
I really like the finish line setup at Bayshore. The course winds through a community college campus and finishes on a high school track (maybe the last 100 meters or so are on the track). There were a lot of spectators throughout the campus and in the high school stadium. They were loud and did a great job of cheering on the runners, and I was thrilled when I heard my wife and some of our family members cheering for me as I turned onto the track. I didn’t see them as I was heading toward the finish line, but I heard them and it really made a difference for me. After I finished, I got my medal, a banana, some chocolate milk from Refuel with Chocolate Milk, and some water. It took a few minutes for my wife and our family members to find me, as the spot where runners were funneled after the race was on the opposite side of the stadium from where the runners entered the track. I’m so grateful that they all stuck around to see me finish and chat for a while after the race. I didn’t know what emotions to expect when I finished, and I ended up feeling an overwhelming mix of pride, happiness, excitement, pain, and relief. I felt OK for a few minutes after I finished, but then I started to feel out of it and nauseous, so we didn’t stick around for long. We did stay long enough for me to get some of the ice cream available to runners. I’m just glad the “out of it” feeling and nausea went away fairly quickly…I think the ice cream really helped. I recovered enough to go have lunch with family at North Peak Brewing Company, and I felt fine (though sore and tired) the rest of the day.
The volunteers, spectators, fellow runners, and race organizers were awesome and really helped make this a wonderful experience. I really enjoyed myself, and am very happy I chose this as my first marathon. I was torn before the race on whether I should set goals due to my reduced training and lingering hip flexor pain. I decided that my primary goal was to finish the marathon and have fun doing so – that’s why I didn’t mention my time or splits anywhere above. My “A” goal time was 3:30:00 and my “B” goal time was 3:45:00. I beat my “B” goal by a few minutes by running a 3:41:37, and a huge positive split (running the second half slower than I ran the first half) ensured that I had no chance of achieving my “A” goal. I knew I would be very proud and happy to finish regardless of time, but I also wanted to push myself and see how I would do. I was a little disappointed that I wasn’t able to have a stronger second half and negative split, but I have no complaints at all. I’m not sure when or where I’ll run another marathon, as my top running-related priority now is to let my hip flexor heal. But running another marathon is definitely a goal, and I hope to have a full training segment and feel 100% when I run the next one.
Thank you for all of the support and encouragement as I prepared for Bayshore and dealt with doubts, injuries, and reduced training. I really appreciate it.
Chip time: 3:41:37 (gun time: 3:42:39)
Garmin time: 3:41:39 (26.30 miles)
Pace (per Garmin): 8:26/mile
Age group: 63/148
Slowest mile (per Garmin): 9:50 (mile 25)
Fastest mile (per Garmin): 7:58 (mile 11)
Did you race this weekend? If so, how did it go?
What did you do for Memorial Day weekend? Did you travel or do anything special?