Monday, April 24, 2006

RR France to Germany Marathon

Race Report
France to Germany Marathon
French Lick, IN
Sun, Apr 23/06
Marathon #261 – State # 41 (2nd loop)
3:36:01 1AG

I decided to run this marathon in order to continue my quest to finish the 50 States for a 2nd time. As a side note I finished the 1st loop of the 50 States in Indiana – the Hoosier Marathon - in Ft Wayne on June 11/95. It took me 4 years to run the 1st loop - I am now approaching my 11th year on the 2nd loop and I figure it will take me at least another year to finish. I am beginning to get frustrated/bored with this quest (see how careful I am not to use the word ‘goal’ because then I would become obsessive about it!) because it really doesn’t interest or motivate me! “Been there – done that!”

This trip and race also had some unfortunate/unplanned similarities to the 1st loop. I had initially planned the trip as a one-day trip with a late return on Sun night to give me lots of time to run the race and drive the 120 miles back to Indianapolis to catch a plane. However the airline advised me about three weeks before the trip that the flight was changed from 6 pm to 2:45 pm! Crap! The race started at 7 am - that meant if I ran a 4-hr race I would only have 3:45 to shower/change/check out and make the 120-mile drive and catch the plane. I decided it would be tight but I could do it? It reminded me of the ‘good old days’ of the 1st loop when I would leave work on Fri night – fly for three hours and arrive in some strange city/state around 10 pm – and check into a hotel at midnight. Then get up at 6am - run a marathon and scramble for the airport to return home. Since I had my ‘previous’ bod in those days I could plan on running a sub 3:10 marathon and then rush to arrive at the airport about 30 minutes before flight time! I often scheduled my return flights 5 hours after the start of the race! Boy – are those days ever over!

But back to Marathon #261 and State #41 – the ‘France to Germany’ marathon. Why is it called that? The race starts in French Lick, IN a small town established by French traders in the 1800s and runs to West Baden, IN another small town established by German settlers in the 1800s. Both towns are located in the southern part of the state on the border of the Hoosier National Forest. Both towns were settled on natural springs and during the late 1800s huge resorts and a casino were built in both towns. It was a very popular resort destination for the rich and famous in those days but both the resorts and the towns have suffered from economic malaise. However the state has granted the towns a license to reopen a casino and both resorts are being restored and a new casino is being built. I believe everything is scheduled to open in 2007! It should (hopefully) make a big difference to the towns and that region? Maybe next year runners won’t have to stay in a $40/night motel that should be demolished!

But on to the race. As I drove into French Lick on Sat night after dark I was concerned about the hills on both sides of the highway? The marathon website had said there was only one major hill near the finish line? The race started at 7 am on Sun at the Rail Museum in French Lick. The weather was a chilly 51 F with no wind. It was a small town race with only 200 runners in both the Marathon and Half. I had looked at the runner’s/entry list and determined that there were six runners in my age group – a strange category – 58 to 65? Only two of us appeared to have the capability to run a 3:30 marathon! I decided to line up on the start line and stay with anyone who looked like he was in my age group. The first few miles ran from French Lick to West Baden and through the West Baden Resort before returning to French Lick. I stayed behind the front group of runners as they pulled me through 5 miles in 39:35 – faster than I wanted to run!
I was trying to stay behind another old fart and the lead female. I didn’t think he was over 60 but he could be 58?

Most of the course ran south of French Lick along Interstate 145 on the shoulder of the highway. The shoulder was contoured so I ignored the rules and ran on the highway because I did not want to risk an injury to a hamstring or ITL Band by running on a slope! I followed the old fart and the lead female though 10 miles in 1:19:30 in spite of a number of gentle rolling hills. (Only one hill?) When we passed the Half in 1:44:37 I was pleasantly surprised because I still felt OK. I thought that pace was too fast for my training (or lack of training due to recent injuries) but I felt I needed to stay with those two runners as long as I could? We passed mile 15 in 2:00:21 and I realized that my pace was slowly creeping above 8 min/mile. Didn’t matter! The next mile was a long continuous climb up a BAH (Bad Ass Hill) and then we hit a series of very short/steep BAHs that were even worse! I was almost relegated to walking on a very nasty hill near mile 17 but Maddog wasn’t willing to consider such nonsense! Words like ‘wimp’, ‘sissy’, ‘loser’ started to be mentioned/shouted so I somehow kept the old legs churning – but they seemed to be moving in slow motion as I crested the last BAH at mile 17 in a 9:27? I kept thinking, “we have been climbing for two miles – when do we get to go downhill”? It quickly became one of those “be careful what you wish for” scenarios as the elevation we had gained was all given back over mile 18!

That downhill was so steep! I tried to lengthen my stride and take advantage of gravity but the hill was just too steep. So I screamed all the way down the hill as I was forced to put on the brakes and tore my quads to shreds! By the time I reached mile 18 my legs were trashed and I decided to ease the pace to 8:30s for a few miles to see if they could recover. I reached mile 20 in 2:43:38. I had lost almost 4 minutes in the hills – but I could again see the lead female in front but the old fart was gone? The course had returned to the highway that was flat so I tried to lower my pace. My old bod refused – the legs were too trashed and tired! I decided 8:30s were good! I followed the lead female through mile 23 in 3:09:21 and observed that she was fading – obviously the hills had beaten her up badly too? I decided that I would try to pull her in and dropped the pace to 8:15s. I passed her at mile 24 and gave her some encouragement. Bad mistake! I don’t know whether it was my pep talk or she just didn’t want/like to be beat by an ‘old man’ but she rallied and tried to stay with me.

Shit/damn! – you guessed it! I now had a pissed-off female trying to pass me back and a Maddog screaming at me that there was no way in Hell that he was going to let a woman pass him at the end of a race. If you recall I have had a long string of races lately where I have followed the winning female across the finish line by a few minutes or less. “Not today” screamed Maddog as he lowered the hammer and pushed the pace back to sub 8s! I knew I had no choice but to hang on and go along for the ride! It hurt like Hell but since there were only two miles left I figured I could handle the pain for a measly 16 minutes? We pushed each other for the next 1½ miles and thankfully at 25 ½ miles she ran out of gas and stopped to walk! I had her! Finally I was able to relax and cruise the last ½ mile to cross the finish line in 3:36:01.

I had gained a few precious minutes on my hectic/stressful schedule to get out of town and catch my flight so I took some time to talk to the old fart who beat me. He finished in 3:31 but was upset because he had to walk the last hill at mile 17! (He musn’t have a Maddog?) The good news was he was only a (young) old fart – 53 years young! Thus I was pretty sure that I had won my age group but couldn’t stick around to confirm it. I called the race director on Mon to confirm my finish time and position.

I did make it back to Indianapolis in time to catch my flight but have resolved never to do that to myself again. There is no need to put stress on myself and rush like that when I am retired?

As for the race itself I was not impressed. The race is organized by the Chamber of Commerce – not runners. They are friendly but do not understand the needs of runners. The course was very confusing in many places and not well marked. The 2nd place male runner took a wrong turn at mile 21 that cost him 10 minutes and dropped him to 6th place! And there was definitely more than “ONE HILL”! I could have run that race much smarter if I had known about the BAHs! I won’t be going back – even to see the new casino and restored resorts.

However I was still pleased with my time and performance. I finished faster than I thought I could and most importantly I had no problems with any of the nagging injuries I have been suffering the past month. I believe I can begin speed work again before I leave for Colorado in a few weeks. I am excited and motivated about the prospect of going to Colorado healthy and injury-free for the first time in six years! I always get stronger in the mountains so this summer I am excited/confident that I can kick some serious ass in the mountain races!

Stay tuned for the next report!

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