Monday, June 13, 2016

Belated 2016 Fargo Marathon Post-Race Report!

Marathon again this year since I enjoyed writing up a post race recap on it last year. I want to discuss two big races in 2016 for me in this blog. 2016 marks my third completion of the full marathon race at Fargo, ND. It also marked the 4th time I did a race of the minimum full marathon distance because a few months earlier in March I competed in my first ever 50k that transpired just outside of Lisbon, ND in the Cheyenne Grasslands which is where I raced in my first 25k the year prior. That race is known as the Sandhills Ultra Racing Experience (or END-SURE for short).

Doing two races of at least 26.2 miles within two months of each other took a lot of hard work and training. For about six weeks leading up to the 50k I was increasing my weekly long run distance from the usual 12 miles until 24 the week before the race. Because of lovely North Dakota winters, it was still too slick to run outside until early March, which meant most of those training runs until a couple weeks before were executed on the good ‘ol treadmill. Ever do 20 miles on a treadmill before? I do not recommend it.

The first half of the 50k course in the Cheyenne grasslands was entirely new to me. I was a little worried about fresh snow being covered over the track because most of the snow gradually melted away by beginning of March, but come race time in mid-March a few light flurries in the previous days got me worked up, but thankfully none of it stuck nor did it get the trail course all muddied up either. At race time it was a brisk 33 degrees out with tolerable winds of around 13mph. I remember it was mostly cloudy and for about the six and a half hours I was racing, the sun only peeked out for about no more than 10 glorious minutes of temporary heat all together. Minutes in though, the blood was flowing and body temperature was not a problem.

The first half of the race was surprisingly pleasant. It was almost entirely flat, and the challenge was trying to keep my eyes peeled for the trailhead markers around every 150-200 yards because I remember a handful being somewhat easy to miss in some parts of the grasslands where the trail blended in with its surroundings. Luckily for almost the entire first half of the race I was within eyesight of another competitor which helped tremendously keep me on track. As I got to the halfway aid station I was making fairly good time considering I was running on dirt and carrying a 2 liter water pack on me too.

The second half of the race however really kicked my butt. I remember that half was the 25k I did last year minus a couple little tweaks, and just like I remembered that half was filled with a lot of constant mini-hills throughout. It was not too terrible last year tackling just that half of the race on its own, but going into it after already running 16 miles made it a whole new beast. Each new climb up a hill got incredibly more difficult and I really started to slow down. I kept plugging away, and definitely took several walking breaks in that final half to help get through it. As disastrous as the second half of the race went, I was expecting the breakdown to happen once I hit these hills so I did my best to persevere through it while listening to a couple special podcasts I saved to help get through this race.

There were only four aid stations for this race, which I knew going in and was why I was required to wear a water-pack. The aid stations were thankfully well-equipped with all kinds of goodies to snack up on to keep my energy flowing. Props to ENDracing again for having a nice post-race grill out too that I took advantage of. I had a fun little chat with another runner after the race I was trying to stay in front of, but who managed to pass me in the final mile. I devoured a well earned veggie burger and brat at the grill out that hit the spot! It was at this time though the adrenaline wore off and I started getting the chills from the cold again and I quickly jumped in my heated car for the drive home.

I somehow made the near two hour drive home while recalling that my legs were extremely sore and took a couple days to recover from. A 50k is the minimum distance of a ultra marathon so I am glad I can say I achieved that feat, but I think if I were to compete in END-SURE again I will opt for the 25k option instead as it served last year as the perfect tune up race in my training plan last year to get my body conditioned to the marathon distance.

The next week I had to get my body re-adjust to start training for the marathon again and the two month gap from END-SURE to Fargo gave me just enough time to gradually increase my end-of-the-week long runs from 12 to 20 miles. I remember previous years getting worked up as I increased my distance each week, but there was something odd this year as I went into each training run mostly anxiety free, and was more or less thinking “yup, today I run X miles.” I did not know what to make of this, but it was pretty much my mindset going into the Fargo marathon.

As race day approached I was starting to get excited again about tackling the beast that is the marathon because the Fargo Marathon race day experience is still my favorite of all the races I compete in. It is a flat course that features an awesome start and finish inside the Fargodome, with plenty of well-maintained aid stations every mile or two. The community support is in a class of its own as it is hard to pass up a city block where there are at least a few people out there all day clapping and cheering on the runners. Asides from official aid stations there was at least an unofficial aid station or two every mile from the awesome people of Fargo setting up their own water/lemonade/jolly rancher/orange slice stands! I will emphasize again this year there is nothing like the feeling of getting a high-five from a little kid to give you a morale boost and keep spirits high in those final miles.

The day before the Fargo marathon they host one of the biggest 5ks in the country. The last few years I usually enjoyed being in the crowd and cheering on the runners and a few friends I know who tackle that race, but this year my friend Lyzz asked if I could run it with her. Lyzz and her husband Chris are two awesome friends I have known forever and are always super accommodating to me and let me crash at their place in Fargo whenever I am in town so I was thrilled to be there by her side giving her encouragement and helping her get through that race!

The next day was the big marathon race day and I went in with a similar strategy as last year. I lined up near the 4 hour 30 minute pacer for the race and told myself no matter what to stay by her and do not pass anyone at all for the first 11 miles of the race. I queued up another podcast I had for race day which helped me keep my adrenaline at bay and maintain that pace like I planned. Shortly after hitting 11 miles I gradually increased my pace and started to make my way through the pack. Hats off to my runner of the day that was a guy decked out in a full-on Scooby-Doo costume! I can only imagine how much he was roasting in there.

On race day we were blessed with tremendous weather! It was clear, bright skies with very little wind and a race day starting temperature in the 50s. By the final hour of the race for me though the temp was getting well into the 70s and I was definitely feeling it. The race director anticipated this and encouraged residents to have sprinklers running on the streets and countless citizens obliged and I made sure to get soaked by many sprinklers in that final hour.

At mile 21 I started to feel the race get the best of me and my legs. Like last year instead of suffering non-stop I took a few short walk breaks after grabbing a cup of water in the final series of aid stations to help keep me going and to make sure I would not overdo it and that helped a lot. Last year I finished with a time of 4:26 and I was hoping to finish with a time of around 4:15 this year, and I thought I had an outside shot of making it. However, with about a little over a half mile to go in the race I got my first ever charlie horse while running. That was an awful experience I do not want to relive, and I had to instantly stop running and it took a good few minutes to walk it off. Somehow, I was able to shake it off and at least able to finish the last third of a mile running across the finish line. I did not hit 4:15, and the unexpected hiccup resulted in me finishing with 4:24. I may have missed my goal, but I was glad I finished, and I still barely managed to beat my time from the previous year.

Chris, Lyzz, my mom, my sister and her kid were all there to root me on at the finish line! I remember seeing them shortly after the race and gave them all a big hug because I was so happy to see them! I was so psyched to see them that a second after the hug I yelled, “come back here we are not done hugging yet!” Those good race sensations did not last for long however as shortly after the race a quick fever hit me and I think a combination of the heat and consuming too much water/Gatorade in the final miles got the best of me and I quickly made my way to a bathroom at a restaurant I met up with at my family shortly after the race to hurl! Once I got that out of my system though I felt exponentially better! However the last thing I wanted to do after that was eat, and instead I just wanted to rehydrate.

Like the last few years I went on my marathon diet of giving up beef burgers and pizza for 100 days and only eating healthy when eating out leading up to the Fargo marathon and we celebrated by hitting up my favorite pizza joint, Rhombus Pizza in Fargo! So imagine having this fresh hot pizza right in front of me, but not having an appetite to eat it at all!?!? It was bizarre, but a couple hours later I got my appetite back and I wolfed down some delicious cold fridge pizza! After resting at Chris & Lyzz’s home for a couple hours I finished off the day meeting a few co-workers for a victory drink back in Grand Forks as the perfect way to celebrate another marathon in the books. Sorry for babbling on forever, but if you made it this far in another insanely long blog then I salute you! See you again next year!

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