I have to admit in the days leading up to the race I wasn't excited as usual. I was experiencing a quiet confidence. I took a business like approach to marathon number eight. I upped the mileage to an average of 65 miles per week. I had never trained this hard before so there were no regrets.
We got to Milwaukee after some pancake carbo loading at Cracker Barrel on the way north. I was tired from only about 6 hours of sleep after playing poker with some friends the night before. The expo at the Milwaukee School of Engineering was really small. Pretty much what I expected for a race of only 3000 people. No frills, no food samples, no blaring DJ booth like the Nike display at the Chicago marathon. I think it fit with the way I trained. No nonsense and just get the job done. We had time to kill so we checked into the hotel and I managed to get about an hour nap in before dinner. My wife found a fantastic Italian restaurant that night called Mimma's. Forty six different kinds of homemade pasta among other entrees. I was in bed before 9PM and unlike other marathon eves, I slept like a rock. No nervousness, no pre-race jitters. I woke only once about 4AM but was immediately back to sleep until 5AM when the alarm went off.
The marathon had school buses pick us up at the hotel for the 26 mile journey to the race start in Grafton. The entire high school was open to the runners and spectators. We had multiple bathrooms and locker rooms to use and runners took advantage of the gym and cafeteria to stretch out.
The race organizers had a sense of humor. The start line had the usual signs with paces of 8, 9 and 10 minute pace. But the there was a a special sign for anyone running under 2:02:00. My BQ time was 3:30 so I had printed out a 3:27 pace band for my wrist. I decided to give myself the freedom to keep my pace between 7:49 (3:25) and 7:54 (3:27). I lined up behind the 3:25 pacer and planned to negative split this race and pass the pace group near the end. It was PR weather. Mostly cloudy, 54F and 86% humidity.
We were off. No traffic problems and it was easy to settle into pace early. The first part was along rural country roads.
Mile 1 - 7:41 A bit quick but plenty of time for correction.
Mile 2 - 7:34 I made the mistake of just following the pacer and he was going too fast. Time to slow up.
Mile 3 - 7:59 The pacer must have noticed his mistake because even though I slowed down the gap between me and him remained the same.
Mile 4 - 7:56 Kept it slow. It was about here we ran past a field of cows and spooked them They were mooing and running in circles. Call it a half-hearted stampede.
Mile 5 - 7:42 Still too fast but it feels so easy. Saw my second favorite sign of the day. "Can any of you return punts for the Packers?" Their punt returns have been pitiful this year
Mile 6 - 7:47 I know were in Wisconsin now. We pass on old guy sitting in his driveway playing polka music on his accordion.
Mile 7 - 7:49 (54:28 Projected finish 3:23:55) First Hammer gel as we enter the Concordia University campus. Surprisingly the 3:25 group is nowhere in sight.
Mile 8 - 7:45
Mile 9 - 7:49
Mile 10 - 7:49 My pace has settled but it's still feeling easy. We're running through residential neighborhoods now. The course up this point has been overall downhill but there are rolling hills which I'm convinced is easier on your legs than a pancake flat course.
Mile 11 - 7:49
Mile 12 - 7:51
Mile 13 - 7:53 13.1 1:42:31 Project finish 3:25:14
Mile 14 - 7:48 Second Hammer gel.
Mile 15 - 7:49 Still on pace. Here I saw my favorite signs. First Sign: Faster, Harder, Don't Stop Second sign: That's what she said
Mile 16 - 7:50
Mile 17 - 7:51 About here I started to feel a bad patch. Nothing really wrong other than my energy seemed to get low. My pace was OK but the crowds were sparse here and they weren't making any noise.
Mile 18 - 7:50 Still feeling low on energy but pace has not reflected it. If this continues I gave myself permission to walk through the water stop at Mile 20.
Mile 19 - 7:45 The crowds are little more energetic here and my energy returns. I actually stepped on the gas here a little. Maybe I can still 3:25. Third gel
Mile 20 - 2:36:35 On pace for 3:25:16. Feeling good, no walking yet.
Mile 20 & 21 7:46 pace. I forgot to hit the mile split on my Garmin at Mile 20. Projected 3:24:59
Mile 22 - 7:52 The view is fantastic of Lake Michigan now and the sun is out.
Mile 23 - 7:54 My energy is now gone as fast as it came back at Mile 19. Maybe I should pop one more gel but my stomach really doesn't want a thing now except water. I talk a quick walk break as I pass the aid station. It's Mile 23.5 and the volunteer tells us to enjoy this section. It's a big downhill and I take off running again.
Mile 24 - 8:05 Started to fade but I just kept repeating: Pain is temporary
Mile 25 - 8:11 Pain is temporary. BQ is only a mile away. Pain is temporary. Guess what? I caught the 3:25 pacer. He's alone. Walking. I pass him.
Mile 26.2 8:26. My son sees me about .3 from the finish and screams. There are no fences here and he's right next to the running path. We're going to Boston daddy! He's taking pictures with my wife's iPhone.
Photo courtesy of my eight year old
Ummm, where the hell is my wife anyways. About 50 yards further, she's taking pictures and tells me congratulations. I head to the chute pumping my fist most of the way. Finish time 3:26:52. BQ minus 3:08!!!
I cross the finish line as the announcer calls my name. I get my medal. This one's gonna mean something. It was here a medical worker starts talking to me. I wasn't really ready for a conversation. I'm wondering if I look like I'm out of it. It turns out they are assisting everyone out of the chute. Nice touch Milwaukee! Make sure every runner who might need help gets it.
I'm going to let this one soak in for a while. No need to go out and plan another race right away.
I do have to wait almost a year to enter Boston though. I don't think I'll mind the wait.