Saturday, August 24, 2013

Wausau Marathon 2013

Short version that I posted to Dailymile:  Wausau Marathon - 3:04:55 - happy with this time as it is only 30 seconds slower than my PR and this is still early in the season for me. I came for a BQ and got it so mission accomplished. Honestly I fell apart in the last 4 miles but I had a great first 22 miles, so I am excited for fall races coming out of this.

Race Shirt
Long version for those with extra time on hand:  In the moments before the race we start sizing up the competition, but mainly I was trying to gauge whether I would be running with someone, or going it alone.  Seemed like a few people would be good to hang with, but there was a big mix of young kids, tall guys, and older runners. There were a few Boston jackets in the pre-race crowd as well.  It appeared that even though this was going to be a small race, there were quite a few with BQ’s on their minds, as well as mine.
Quick background: I hadn’t run a marathon since before September 2012, so that meant I needed a new BQ for 2014; and one that would give me a decent shot at being accepted.  I qualified for Boston in September 2011, but my time was not as fast as a good number of other qualifiers so I was not accepted into Boston 2012.  My November 2011 PR of 3:04:25 was more than 5 minutes below the qualifying time for my age group, so I was accepted into 2013’s race.  But my plans for 2013 were shattered when I ended up with a stress reaction in my left foot about 2 weeks before the big day.  So yeah, I ended up not running Boston 2013, which may have been a blessing with the events that happened.  I originally hadn’t planned to run Boston 2014, but missing my first one this year pushed everything back yet another year.  Third time’s a charm right?
Sidebar:  I would have run Boston this year as a 38-year-old, and my qualifying time for this year was 3:10.  Because Boston Marathon falls on Patriot’s Day that means the date of the race actually jumps around a bit.  This year the race fell just before my 39th birthday, but for 2014, however, the race date actually falls after my 40th birthday which means I now have an “easier” qualifying time of 3:15.  I’ll take those extra 5 minutes, yes please.
So the goal for the day was to get a qualifying time that would give me a decent shot at getting accepted into 2014.  And now that my 2013 PR streak has ended, I feel safe that I can formally discuss it here.  (I guess I’m admitting I’m superstitious.)  I’ve run 6 races this year of various distances from the 5K to the Half Marathon.  I’ve had 6 PR’s this year.  Aside from my injury in April, this has been a phenomenal year for my running, uh, hobby.  I knew I had a chance at PR’ing again today but I really tried to push that to the back of my head and forget it.  I wanted to go to Wausau and run a conservative race with a specific time goal of around 3:05.  Faster is always better, but I didn’t want to blow it out stupidly in the first 10 miles and end up with a 3:15:01.  (I did similar things in races last year trying to attain a goal I don’t think I was ready for.)  Given that my marathon PR is 3:04:25 and that I was hoping to come in under 3:05, certainly it was hard to get that “PR” mindset totally wiped clean from my thoughts.  But anything around 3:05 or faster would put me 10 minutes below my qualifying time; I knew it was possible and would give me a great shot at being accepted for 2014 (knock on wood).  Hey, if I don’t get accepted, let’s just say I’ve learned to deal with it by now. 
The race start time of 7:00 a.m. came and passed without any announcements.  Finally around 7:05 we got our pre-race talk, the Star - Spangled Banner, and without too much fanfare we were off.  Pretty quickly we established an order that would last most of the race.  One guy took off and he was out alone for as long as I could see him.  Two others were following.  There was a pretty big group just ahead, and I was battling for a preferred position with 2 young dudes who were cutting me off without looking where they were going.  I had to get away from them pretty quick.  I got away from them, trailed a group of runners, and then for most of the race I ran alone, with my thoughts.  Ugh, I was really hoping to run with a few others.  Anyway, the first five miles felt relaxed and strong and I was moving at a pace that was slightly faster than I would have planned, but not terribly, so I just went with the flow.  If you know me sort of well, you know I have been dealing with a hamstring strain for a LONG time now.  And after about 6 miles I started feeling it, which is odd because I normally don’t notice it too much until later miles these days.  For now it was something I could live with and my pace remained consistent. 
The one and only thing that kind of bugged me about this race was the mile markers.  I know when racing in Chicago city streets you cannot trust your GPS.  And I realize it can be difficult to accurately measure a 26.2 mile winding course on streets, paths, and sidewalks.  But today out in the fields and open expanses of north central Wisconsin and running as I was, I knew these markers were way off at a number of spots (i.e., went from a 7:12 mile to a 6:00 mile while my watch said I was doing consistent 6:50 pace for most of the first 20 miles).  It made it mentally challenging to gauge my pace because it was like looking at 2 completely different splits every mile.
My GPS track of the race
The weather was cool enough at the start and the first hour or so didn’t feel too bad.  I was sweating of course, but I didn’t feel overheated.  The aid stations were well stocked and with so few runners it wasn’t hard to get water even if there was only one or two volunteers at the station. 
I tried to take in the countryside, I chatted with a couple runners early on.  I tried not to think too much about how many miles I had left.  Just running my race, that’s it.  Don’t let the everyday negative thoughts seep in. And actually all in all, the longer I was out there, the more I came to appreciate this tiny race.  Aside from the mile marker bit, the race was very well organized, from packet pick-up, to start/finish area amenities, to the number of volunteers and police helping at the intersections, even the directions were well laid out and I never felt lost.
Not long into the race I was in about 14th or 15th place.  I got passed by a couple others, but then passed a few people too.  I think I settled into around 10th or 12th for the second half.  It got hard to keep track when my brain started getting tired.  I got passed by a female runner at some point in the second half.  There were two points that I was handed full bottles of bottled water at the aid stations and that was like the best thing of the race.  I gulped it down and splashed it on my head and had plenty left over.  Felt sad to toss it after a while but it quickly got heavy in my tiring arms.
It was sunny and started getting warmer.  At about 20 miles in I was certain I’d PR if things kept going as well as they had been, but by 22 miles my hamstring was pretty much telling me it was done with the race.  Those last 4 miles felt like the entire preceding 22 put together. In the last couple miles my feet were on fire.  That’s the point in every race where I question why I ran marathons, what was the point, this sucks, stick to half’s, why, why, why…?  And then my goal for the race came back into perspective:  time goal – 3:05 or around there, not a PR today.  I knew I could slow it up and not beat myself up about it.  I even slowed to a walk at one aid station near the end, and had a very hard time getting my legs going again after that.  Out of nowhere we turn a corner and the finish line appeared unexpectedly (though my watch said I was already well over 26 miles).  I didn’t even have an opportunity to sprint the last half mile, I just finished at a slightly faster gallop.  But that was a welcome sight, and then just like that it was over.
My watch said I ran 26.43 miles – not too far off, but I really wondered about the actual distance.  My watch said my average pace was 6:59, but based on 26.22 miles it comes out at about 7:03.  Either way… I finished at 3:04:55 which was only 30 seconds slower than my nearly 2-year-old PR.  ...and a precious 5 seconds under my time goal. I got a bottle of water and sat down to rest.  Then I got some sliced oranges; they tasted amazing. I went back for more. A few times.  The worst part?  Driving back home 5 hours in the car with my hamstring yelling at me the whole way.  But it was worth it.  It sort of feels like a PR.  It was my fastest race since those ideal cooler November conditions back in 2011, and I ran 3 marathons last year, the best being 3:06.  Despite my hammy being a nag, I’m looking forward to some Fall racing.


  1. so happy for you, man. you did such an amazing job! it's going to be an awesome, kick ass autumn for ya :) powered by veg, baby!!!

    1. :) Thanks Erin! Appreciate the comment. And I feel the same for your season!

  2. Somehow I didn't read this until now...can't wait to see what you pull at Chicago!!! Hope you've set up for our "meeting" with the BAA next Wednesday!

    1. Ha, if by our "meeting" you mean, registration, then I say #hallaaa!

  3. Hi, great race report and congrats on requal for Boston. I was wondering if you could give me some detail about the course and elevation changes? I'll be coming from a hot environment and i'm more worried about the terrain. Thanks for any insight. Eric