Monday, May 22, 2006

RR Fargo Marathon

Race Report
Fargo Marathon
Fargo, ND
Sat, May 20/06
#263 – State #43 (2nd loop)
3:31:45 - 2 AG

This marathon was the only race I had scheduled for May (to run the 43rd state on my 2nd loop around the 50 States) until Maddog decided to add two ‘surprise’ marathons – one before and one after Fargo but all in the same week – to test my marathon condition.

I researched last year’s race to find the winning time for the 60(+)-year old runners – 3:37. Thus I figured I needed to run between 3:30 and 3:35 to win my age group. On the way to the airport in Denver on Fri morning I had to stop in downtown Denver to pick up my race packet for the Colorado Colfax Marathon on Sun.

I arrived in Fargo on Fri evening in time to pick up my race packet at the Fargodome and then eat a traditional pasta dinner before retiring to bed. Sat was ‘M’ day. The race started at the Fargodome at 8am. The weather was overcast with a temp of 52 F. There was a brief rain burst about 10 minutes before the start but it stopped and never rained during the race. The biggest negative factor was a strong wind blowing at 20 to 30 mph from the North. It was a bigger race than expected – about 2600 runners with 1000 in the Marathon and 1600 in the Half.

The course headed south through the campus of North Dakota State University and the old historic downtown area of Fargo so the wind was behind us for the first 10 miles. With the aid of a tail wind I passed mile 1 in 7:45 but at that point was passed by another old fart. I decided not to push the pace any faster but to keep him in sight and see if he was ‘for real’? I passed him back as I reached mile 3 in 23:30 – but then a 2nd old fart passed me. I kept him in sight as we passed mile 10 in 1:18:52. He was not slowing so he was ‘for real’. At that point the course turned 180 degrees and headed North to Moorhead, MN – directly into the wind! It was brutal! I decided it was necessary and smarter to find a pack of young runners to follow and draft behind rather than waste energy fighting the wind on my own. I would draft behind a runner (or runners) for a few miles but then they would tire and I would have to surge ahead and find another pack to hide behind. I passed the Half in 1:43:37. I was ahead of schedule but figured the wind would definitely slow the 2nd half. I passed mile 15 in 1:58:56 – still under an 8-min pace and the old fart was still in sight but he was not running smart. He was fighting the strong headwind on his own!

I was starting to tire but had dropped behind a group of three young runners who were running a steady 8-min pace and I figured it was smarter to continue to draft behind them rather than slow down and fight the headwind on my own. By mile 19 my wind blockers had decreased to one runner and we had closed on the old fart in front of me. I reached mile 20 in 2:39:43 and passed the old fart as we crossed a timing mat. But it cost me dearly! To make sure he didn’t try to respond or drop in behind us to draft I surged ahead for the next ½ mile and left him behind. But now I had no wind blocker. I couldn’t find a runner to draft behind and my pace dropped to 8:30s as I struggled into the gusting wind!

I tried drafting behind a young female runner. The scenery was nice but she was too small to block much wind. As we passed mile 23 in 3:05:04 I asked her when we would finally get to turn back south again and have a tailwind? She said around 24 ½ miles! So I struggled on by myself but decided not to push the pace back down to sub 8s because I figured I was probably in 1st place in my age group and didn’t want to use up any more energy than necessary because I needed to save as much as possible for the race on Sun.
Finally the course turned south at 24 ½ miles and I was able to drop the pace to 8:15s with the tailwind and cross the finish line inside the Fargodome in 3:31:45.

The university had set up a bank of computers for the runners to have immediate access to the results. I was very happy with my time until I learned that it was only good enough for 2nd place (out of 35) in my age group! I couldn’t believe the results until I discovered that the age group was unusual/non-standard – 58 to 63 – and I had been beat to the finish line by a 58-year old youngster. When I had researched last year’s results I had naively (and mistakenly) assumed the age group was the usual 60 to 64? Maddog was pretty upset! I was frustrated that I had wasted so much energy for an unsatisfactory result that could have been better saved for the race on Sun. At that point I was more concerned about how much was left in the old legs for the marathon on Sun?

After a quick hot soak and shower I decided to explore Fargo while I waited for my evening flight back to Denver. That took about two hours including lunch – there is not much to see or do in Fargo! So I decided to go back to the Fargodome for the awards ceremony at 5 pm. Unfortunately they did not start on time and I had to leave before collecting my award. I really didn’t want a ‘2nd place’ award but they did look nice – etched glass. Although I hadn’t succeeded in my goal of winning the age group because of the stupid/unfair age categories I had run a smart race and was pleased with both my time and performance.

But now it was time to catch my flight to Denver and get ready for the next marathon – and the final race of Maddog’s test!

Stay tuned for the next report!

Race Review:

The race is well organized.
The website is good and informative. (it was probably my own fault that I didn’t realize the strange age group categories)
About 50% of the runners are 50+ years old so old farts should expect lots of competition
The course is flat and fast but has a lot of turns. Traffic control was good. There were lots of water stops and the volunteers were very supportive.
It appears that there is always a North wind in Fargo at that time of year so be prepared to run against a strong wind!

The finish inside the Fargodome is nice. No waiting around in the cold or unpleasant weather.
The computer access for race results was great.

Only two minor complaints:
a) the unfair/stupid age group categories
b) the very late award ceremony ( I believe in the hope that most runners will stay an extra night in Fargo?)

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