Monday, September 27, 2004

Quad Cities Marathon

Sept 26/04

Why Quad Cities? Three reasons: a) I wanted to run a tune up race before running two marathons at the end of the month b) if I was going to run a marathon out-of-state then I might as well pick a state I have only run once (I am working my way around the 50 states for the 2nd time) and c) I had enough air miles on US Airways for a free ticket and figured I better us them before I lose them? Thus I settled on the Quad Cities Marathon.

Flew into Chicago and drove to Moline, IL (long, shitty drive)! The race is kind of unique in that it runs though four cities and two states – Moline and Rock Island, Illinois and Bettendorf and Davenport, Iowa. There are four racing events- marathon, relay, Half and 5K. All races start and finish in downtown Moline. There were 2500 runners in all events – only 500 in the full marathon. On Sun morning the weather was pleasant – sunny and 47F – when I lined up at the 7:30am start. Since all races started together I lined up right on the start line with the big dogs. And there were some really big dogs! Surprisingly for such a small race there were elite runners from Kenya, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and the USA competing for the prize money (only $2500?).

The first mile ran over the I-74 bridge across the Mississippi River into IA. It was the biggest hill on a course that had only a few small hills and four bridges across the Mississippi. I passed the 1st mile in 8:05 and the 2nd mile in 7:30! Whoaaaaaaa! Way too fast! So I threw out an anchor and slowed my pace down and quickly settled into an 8-min pace. There were a few more hills and two more bridges before I crossed the Half in 1:44:55. I knew at that point that any goal/hope of a sub 3:30 race was gone. That meant I would have to hold that pace or run negative splits in the 2nd Half - and my body was telling me it was not having a negative split day! But I decided to hold an 8-min pace for as long as I could and ‘see what happens’? We crossed the final bridge back into IL and I passed 16 miles in 2:08:13. But my legs were tired and I lapsed into a ‘lull’ and slowed drastically. Fortunately two youngsters (in their 40s) blew by me around mile 17 and stirred up my competitive juices. I dropped in behind them and let them drag me through the next 5 miles at an 8-min. pace.

We had passed mile 20 in 2:40:57 – a minute behind a sub 3:30 pace and I didn’t believe we could make up that minute in the last 10K? It didn’t matter because when we reached mile 22 my legs were tired and out of energy! I figured I had two options: a) try to stay with my new young friends. That would require a lot of pain and ‘hurtin’ over the last four miles and I doubted we could break 3:30 and b) slow down and try to push the old bod just enough to keep the pain and ‘hurtin’ at an acceptable level. I had been looking for runners in my age group and figured that I was either in 1st place by a whole bunch or behind in 2nd place by a whole bunch. So increasing the pain level was not going to change my position in the race. I opted for plan B. Even so it took a lot more pain and ‘hurtin’ than expected to hold an 8:30 pace over those last four miles. I reached mile 26 in 3:31:25. Then for some strange/inexplicable reason I got a crazy notion that I had to finish under 3:33? That meant increasing my pace (and pain) and sprinting the final 100 yards to cross the finish line in 3:32:57. Now doesn’t 3:32:57 sound much faster/better than 3:33:07? As suspected the extra seconds and pain were not necessary to finish 1st in my age group – 2nd place was 7 minutes behind me!

I was pleased with my performance, disappointed with my time and happy with my 1st place award. And it was a good/hard/fast training run that should help me get back below 3:30 in the next few races.

Race comments: a flat, fast course on roads and bike paths with only a few hills. The race organization was good. Good traffic control and lots of water stations. Great post-race party with lots of beer!

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