Monday, July 13, 2015

Mostly Uphill But Really Pretty and Perfect Weather -- Grandfather Mountain Marathon Race Report

I've been excited about two marathons this year -- Nashville and Deadwood. I was not excited about Trailbreaker, Shires of Vermont, or this one, Grandfather Mountain (North Carolina), even though I registered for it a long time ago. The more I heard about it, the less I looked forward to it. Reports were mostly in agreement that it was 1) hot, 2) humid, 3) difficult, 4) not exactly runner-friendly. I hadn't trained on hills at all (because we don't have any in Michigan) and had only done one post-work run in high temps and humidity, and that one did not go well. So it was a nice surprise that I ended up really enjoying the race.

The start line is at 3300' and the course goes up to almost 4300'. Originally I had thought that 1000 feet over 26 miles wasn't that bad, but then I looked at the elevation profile for the first time (morning of the race) and realized that the course wasn't exactly straight up. There was quite a bit of downhill mixed in there with the uphill: down 200' here, up 500' there, switching from down to up every few miles. This changed it from a steady slog into something a little more interesting, although it is admittedly hard to appreciate the downhills quite as much when you know they are just losing you elevation that you had already gained once and now would have to gain again. On the other hand, at least now I would know that no uphill would last forever. (Except the last three miles at the end of the race, which did last forever, or at least till the finish line.)

We got so, so lucky with the weather. I was planning on this being a 4.5-5-hour race, and only the perfect weather allowed me to get a slightly better time than I had hoped for. The marathon started in Boone, North Carolina, in the stadium of the GOOD A.S.U. (Appalachian State University) as opposed to the NO-GOOD A.S.U.; we all know which one I'm talking about. Stadium start = lots of real bathrooms, about the best thing you can hope for at a marathon start line. It was also a small race, 320 runners, so there were no bathroom lines. Humidity was 96% but temperature was only 66, so it was wet but not steamy. One more good thing -- the race started at 6:30 a.m. Shires of Vermont, Deadwood, take note! 6:30 is the correct start time for a summer marathon.

The gun went off and we did two laps around Kidd Brewer Stadium before leaving campus and running a little over 2 miles downhill through the town of Boone. Then we turned onto a residential road that went up, up, up into the hills. It was a beautiful road, narrow and winding and sort of hidden in a tunnel of trees. Every time we passed a small clearing in the trees, we were rewarded with grand views of the Appalachians and mist rising from the hollows. The running was moderately difficult but it just made me miss living near mountains more. Even though these are green, wet mountains that could not be more different from Tucson's brown, dry mountains, the point is that the difficulty of slogging up them is rewarded with 1) the feeling of looking down on everything else, and 2) the feeling that you are a badass. Man, I would have to run a hundred miles in Michigan before I ever even began to get that feeling.

We topped out and then got to a screaming downhill, so steep I was worried about falling on my face. It didn't last long before we got to another long, steep climb, a few miles. It still wasn't hot, though. There was a nice, cool breeze that kept us from being absolutely miserable despite the slog. Then downhill again, then up, up, up to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

I was excited about the part of the course that was on the Parkway. That is a great American road that I have never seen or driven on. But it turned out to be one of the few disappointments on the whole course. The views weren't that great, mostly grass and trees on either side of the road with occasional glimpses of the mountains in the distance. Kind of like Stony Creek plus mountains, pleasant but nothing to get excited about. It was also a really, really long downhill, over two miles. My toes, shins, and stomach were all starting to bother me, and I was relieved when it finally leveled out and we turned off the Parkway onto some other road and started climbing again.

Let me mention my foot problem du jour. I had one dead toenail from Deadwood that was almost, but not quite, ready to come off. It was hanging on by a flap and the other night I had caught it on the blanket and woken up from the sharp pain. The only thing to do was tape it down for the marathon and deal with it afterwards. So I did, with a Bandaid, and that was fine except that the Bandaid was now rubbing up against my big toe and causing a blister. I had totally anticipated this but figured a blister was something I could just deal with. Most of the time I could, but sometimes I would step on the foot the wrong way and get that feeling like I was scraping a cheese grater along the side of my foot. While this was not debilitating, it was very demoralizing. It got worse when I left the paved road for what the website said was three miles of gravel road. The uneven gravel surface meant that my feet rolled around a lot more, so my blister hurt a lot more. I started looking ahead to pick out places where I could stop and remove my sock and shoe and Bandaid and... I wasn't sure what I would do once it was off -- the original nail would still be painful. So instead I just kept going instead of sitting down on a fencepost or a flat rock or the open tailgate of someone's pickup truck. This was really the only place where I walked for more than a short distance. To my relief, the gravel road ended after barely a mile, and the blister hurt a lot less once I got back on asphalt again.

Here, at Mile 17 or so, began the most beautiful part of the course. According to the elevation profile, it was a steady climb up to the finish, but the elevation gain was so gradual I barely noticed it. It felt flat. The road was winding and shaded, a cool breeze was blowing, there was light cloud cover but also plenty of bright blue sky, and there was a more beautiful mountain view around every curve. The Mile 18 aid station had banana halves and a jar of salt to dip the banana into, only the second marathon I have ever seen this at (the first was Pikes Peak). I was thrilled to see the bananas and salt. I was just beginning to feel like I maybe needed a little more electrolytes than what I had in me, because of how much I was sweating, but the thought of GU made my stomach roll over. I swear, just when I think I have the perfect water-GU equation down, my system changes again. Today I was chugging Gatorade at almost every station, when for years I could barely drink it at all because it made me so nauseous. Anyway, the salty banana recharged me and I was okay running for a few more miles to the next aid station.

Somewhere in here I caught up to a guy wearing a shirt with the acronym SCROTUM on the back (South Carolina Runners Of Trails and Ultra Marathons, of course). I laughed and said, "Nice shirt! That's just what I need at this point in the race." Then I realized how that sounded and so did some other much older guy running right ahead of me who had also just passed the SCROTUM guy. This guy started laughing and said, "You need a scrotum?" I thought about explaining but decided I didn't have the breath to spare, so I kept on going, but I was still laughing.

This marathon ends at the top of Grandfather Mountain, where the Highland Games (second largest Highland Games in the world) are taking place. You can hear the bagpipes from a mile or two away. It was a very cool finish, if a little overwhelming. After miles and miles of peace and beauty, you leave the mountain road for a dirt and gravel track, and there are volunteers every few steps pointing the way through the parking lot and people wandering around, and you go up a short but incredibly steep little hill, and suddenly you are smack in the middle of a gigantic crowd and roar of noise. All the different clans have their family tents set up, and there are bleachers full of spectators all around the field. There is a track running around the field, and you run a lap around it past all the cheering spectators. Man, that track feels reeeeaaaaaallllly long but there is no way I could've walked, not with the crowd. I finished with a time of 4:22, moderately crappy but better than I had expected considering my total lack of mountain training. The medal is really cheap-looking, flimsy with nothing specific to Grandfather Mountain except the name. It's one of the worst medals I have ever gotten from any race, not even worth putting a picture on Facebook.

The funniest thing about this marathon is what was on the refreshments table. There were bananas and oranges and bread and peanut butter, but there was also an entire table full of Little Debbie cakes of all different kinds. Probably 1/3 of the available finish line food was Little Debbie, which I found absolutely hilarious. I mean, I am not by any means a strictly healthy eater or anything, but seeing that spread of Nutty Bars and Swiss Rolls and Zebra Cakes simultaneously cracked me up and made my stomach turn. I am trying so hard not to blame that display of junk food on the fact that this marathon was in the South, but it's really difficult.

That Bandaid did a nice job of shredding off a good-sized flap of skin on the side of my big toe, but other than that I didn't feel too bad. I wasn't sick, my legs didn't hurt, and I even felt all right the day after, good enough to run five miles after getting back to Michigan. I now have 27 states done, with three more planned for this year to bring me to a total of 30 by October. This was also my fifth marathon this year, which is the most marathons I've ever done in a year. (I had lots of years where I did four, but never did five until now.) I am really enjoying this one-marathon-a-month schedule; it is making it totally unnecessary to ever do any other long runs besides marathons.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Run Detroit!

There are a lot of things I don't like about living in Michigan, but of the few things I do like, most of them have something to do with running. Running along rivers and around lakes in summer, running through showers of falling leaves, and now I can add running in Detroit.

I love urban running. Marathon courses through manicured downtown tourist loops are all well and good, but I actually prefer the grittier sections that take you through the parts of town where the factories are and where pit bulls live in the front yards and old cars are up on blocks and there is no HOA to care whether you cut your lawn or not or whether you do driveway oil changes. Detroit is like the epicenter of ruin porn in America, with its hundreds? thousands? of abandoned buildings, and I have always wanted to run in and around Detroit. One time a few months ago I ran from Royal Oak to downtown Detroit, down Woodward Ave the whole way. It was early enough that hardly anyone was out although I did see a few hookers in Highland Park, and no one at all bothered me. I didn't exactly feel safe -- I never let my guard down -- but I never felt directly threatened, either. Most of the few people I did see were so visibly impaired that they couldn't have run alongside me for a car-length, let alone long enough to catch me and do anything to me. And the streets were so empty you could have run or biked right down the middle of them, ignoring traffic lights, and only had to move a couple times in that whole 13-mile stretch.

I have also run the loop around Belle Isle followed by an out-and-back to Cobo Center, mostly on the Riverwalk but partly on Jefferson. The stretch on Jefferson is not exactly a nice neighborhood but also not a place where you feel like your life is in danger all the time. But still, my knowledge of the geography of Detroit, especially the running geography, is extremely limited, which is why I was so happy to find out about Run Detroit.

Run Detroit is a running store in midtown Detroit. "Midtown Detroit" is another term that I am ashamed to say I did not know the definition of until now. My previous knowledge of Detroit geography was limited to what I could see from the People Mover loop. Midtown Detroit is a part of Detroit that is doing okay. It's not close to Greektown or the Renaissance Center, the tourist places where we train dogs; it's close to Wayne State University and Detroit Institute of the Arts. Literally every business on the street that Run Detroit is on is cool. There is not a single one that would be out of place in the downtown parts of any of the coolest cities in America. I had never been to Run Detroit because I've always gone to the Hanson Running stores. For one, I thought they were closer. (They're not; Run Detroit is actually closer, or at least easier to get to.) Also, they're bigger, but I don't think bigger means better in this case. Run Detroit didn't have a ton of inventory, but what they did have was better, and their prices were definitely better. I haven't really liked Hanson's the last few times I've been there, whether we're talking about the one in Royal Oak or the one in Utica or the one in Lake Orion. Their salespeople were just okay, but didn't seem that interested in helping me find a better shoe or that passionate about running. (And one of them told me it was normal to lose toenails regularly and that changing shoes wasn't going to help with that. Really? I mean, I was too lazy to try on a bunch of different shoes and prove him wrong -- I will just live with losing toenails -- but I don't think it is true that if you lose a lot of toenails it could not possibly have anything to do with your shoes.) So I was totally ready to find a running store that I like better than Hanson's, and I am pretty sure this one is it.

Every weekend they host a 3-mile run, a 6-mile run, and a 10-mile run. The runs aren't supported -- they're so short they don't need to be -- but the store prints up and hands out little pieces of paper with the routes marked on them. They rotate each weekend between the Red Loop, the Green Loop, and the Blue Loop, each of which has a different loop for each of the three different distances. I actually ran the Green Loop a month ago, the one that goes out to Hamtramck and back (I defy anyone who doesn't live here to pronounce that!), and sort of got lost because I was following 6-milers who I thought were 10-milers. Today I was determined not to do that, and memorized the 10-mile Red Loop the night before.

It was pouring rain this morning when I woke up, a wild, windy, wet, chilly grey day that just screamed "Stay in bed! Watch Netflix!" And I so almost did. But then I thought of the chorizo macaroni and cheese and whiskey I had last night, and knew if I stayed in bed I would feel like a big, fat slob, and hate myself, and probably be unmotivated to get any of the other stuff I had to do done today. Besides, I always claim to be able to "Embrace the suck." That means when you KNOW you have to do something that will suck (like bad-weather marathons, or any marathon at elevation or that  is all uphill, or any ultra-marathon at all), the best strategy is simply to get excited about how much it will suck. "I wonder if I'll hallucinate? I wonder if I'll cry? I wonder if this will be the one where I finally throw up? I wonder if I'll actually get a little frostbite and have a cool story for everyone?" It is best to work yourself up into a frenzy of morbid curiosity at the start line so that you're dying for the gun to go off so that you can start finding out whether it will suck epically or just be a drag. So that is what I did with this run.

When I did the Green Loop a month ago, there were probably 50 people in the tiny store and hanging out on the sidewalk in front. The weather was much nicer that day. Today there were maybe 20 people, if that many. Most of them were doing the 6-mile loop, but there were a handful for the 10-mile. I didn't know any of them. We set off for the first mile and a half down Cass. The rain had actually lightened up a little and there was a sweet tail wind. All but the most out-of-it street people had sought shelter elsewhere, and we only had to dodge a few sidewalk sleepers. Most people ran in the road. The roads of Detroit are bad, but the sidewalks are often worse. There is really no reason not to run in the road because there are hardly any cars at all.

I have to say that I like Detroit very much. I like that it is gritty and unpretentious. I feel like if Detroit could talk, it would say something like, "I'm Detroit -- f*** you." I even like the empty high-rises and the abandoned old houses that were obviously really beautiful when they were first built. This route showcased all of those things. Honestly, I fantasize about buying something in Detroit. Like a house or a warehouse or something. I don't know how to renovate anything, couldn't afford it, and know anything I tried to fix would be vandalized immediately, but I still want to own a piece of it. I don't know why. Maybe buy a falling-to-pieces old house and sit inside it and write this blog? Or run a training class for thugs with pitbulls? Or... or...or... so many possibilities. I especially like Detroit in the rain and gloom. That is kind of like the natural look for it in my opinion.

I know where a lot of things are in Detroit -- Wayne State University, the Renaissance Center, Greektown, Mexicantown, Michigan Central Station -- but I totally do not know how to get from any one of those places to any other ones. I don't know at all how the city fits together. These runs are great for that. After running a mile and a half down Cass, we turned right on Michigan, and I realized this is how you get to Corktown on surface streets. (I have driven to Corktown for the Corktown 5K, GPS'ing it and staying on the freeway the whole way, but again, I had no idea of where it actually was in relation to the rest of Detroit.) In Corktown the road is part brick and part paved. I think it is actually less uncomfortable to run on it than to drive on it. We were on Michigan until 16th, where we turned left and suddenly there was Michigan Central Station, Detroit's most-famous, most-iconic ruin, towering over me. When I got to Michigan Central, there was another runner in front of me taking pictures of it. He asked me if I knew what it was, and it was cool to be able to say that I did! He was from China, here in the U.S. for two years. I never did quite understand why. Something about his brother. We didn't talk a lot because we were both busy gasping for breath. I stayed with him the whole rest of the run (six more miles). We ran down Vernor Highway to Mexicantown, another destination I could only reach from the freeway until today. We turned left again at Clark and left again at Fort, where we picked up a headwind in our faces that was just as nasty as the earlier tailwind had been nice.

It felt like we were on Fort forever, though I think it was only a mile and a half. The whole time, I was carrying the piece of paper with the run instructions on them. The paper had gotten wet and was unreadable, and I wanted to throw it away, but there were no trash cans anywhere to be seen. Finally the paper just kind of disintegrated in my hand and I let it fall to the ground. I mean, I felt bad but what was I supposed to do with it? No trash cans on the sidewalk = trash on the ground.

We turned right on Rosa Parks, which became Jefferson, and ended up on the Riverwalk, where we waved "Hi" to Canada. We left the Riverwalk at the Detroit Princess Riverboat and ran the rest of the way back up Woodward to Canfield, where we turned and ran back to the store. The wind had picked up by now to bend-trees-in-half strength, and it was nice to be inside looking out at it instead of outside running in it.

I did not get the name of the guy I ran with, but I thanked him and told him without him I would've been slow. He told me he was slow when he ran by himself. We were well under 8:00 pace, and it felt pretty good the whole time. I know if I was by myself I would've been at least a minute a mile slower. This is why group runs are the best!

Also, as soon as I came into the store I got a drink, then walked out to my car and got my wallet, then came back in to buy stuff. Another couple of guys finished their run and came in as I was picking out Gu. "You do the six-mile?" one of them asked me. "Nope, ten," I said casually, whereupon the guy raised his eyebrows and said, "Wow, good job!" That felt pretty darn good. I was not that fast at all and if I was still in Tucson at WOG, half the other runners would have beat me at that pace, but still... it feels good to have a fast-looking, good-looking dude say "Wow" about my running.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Beautiful Run in the Black Hills -- Deadwood-Mickelson Trail Marathon Race Report

Wow, this one was a stunner as far as natural beauty. In fact, I can't say that I've ever seen a prettier course, with the exception of Pikes Peak, but they're really close. I've been in South Dakota for three days and cannot believe how amazing it is out here and how it is that I never knew that South Dakota was so awesome. I wish I could stay another week because I definitely would not run out of things to do here.

Anyway, this was State #26 for me. My mom and sister came out here for vacation and to be spectators, and Thomas and his girlfriend Andrea also came. I think it's State #27 for Thomas. I am going to tie him next month and then pass him in September, and then annihilate him next year. At least that is my plan. We rented a big, beautiful house right in Deadwood. I literally did not know a single thing about Deadwood before coming here. I thought it was just a small town, and had no idea it was a Wild West tourist town like Tombstone, but that's totally what it is. I really need to start researching these things before I arrive.

The day before the race, we were tourists and went to Mt. Rushmore (very cool but somehow not quite as awesome-looking in real life as it is in pictures) and Crazy Horse (a total rip-off to which I shall never return, ever). The Black Hills appeared to be a mountain runner's paradise: innumerable trailheads every couple miles, grand vistas in every direction, perfect mix of brutally steep hills and peaceful valleys. I have never heard anything about the Black Hills other than that Mt. Rushmore is there. Like, no one ever mentioned that they are some of the most beautiful mountains in the country, seriously. The only bad thing was the weather. There have been a lot of severe storms in this part of the country in the last week, one of them resulting in a road closure that added three hours to our drive from Denver on Friday, and there was yet another one on Saturday which also closed roads and caused a four-hour-long downpour along with enough hail to look like it had snowed. The forecast for race day was much better, thankfully, and we just got lucky that the downpour/lightning/hail happened on Saturday and not Sunday.

This is a point-to-point marathon, and race organizers strongly preferred that everyone take the shuttle from the finish line to the start to limit traffic in the tiny town of Rochford where the race started. Thomas and I could have gotten a ride from Mom but we decided to take the shuttle 1) so that they wouldn't have to get up so early, and 2) because we were concerned just in case some of the rain from yesterday had caused road closures we didn't know about. It turned out the roads were all fine.

You can't really even tell that Rochford is a town. The start line area was just a gravel parking lot outside a tiny wooden church with a few Porta-Potties (plenty for the small number of runners, though). It was chilly enough at the start, which is around 5300' elevation, I think, that I was glad I brought a long-sleeved shirt, but it wasn't really cold. Anyway, at a summer race you definitely want to be a little cold at the start or you will roast later. The forecast was for start temps in the 50's, end temps around 70, and a mix of sun and clouds, which was pretty much what we got.

The first two miles of the race were on the road that went through Rochford, and then we got on the Mickelson Trail and stayed there for the rest of the race. The Mickelson Trail is a 109-mile long rail-trail that starts in the southern part of South Dakota and ends in Deadwood. Running surface is crushed limestone and gravel, which was wonderful underfoot. The first 14 miles are described as "a grind" in most race reviews because there is an uphill grade around 3% most of the way. At first I was a little short of breath which I think was due to the altitude or the climb or the headwind (okay, "head breeze" is more accurate), but then I got used to it and did all right for quite a while. I would agree with the "grind" description. It was never intolerable, but it got more and more noticeable the longer it went on. Thank goodness for the beautiful views to distract me! Because of all the rain on Saturday, all the little brooks were running in the meadows, and most of the course had at least some shade from pine trees. I managed to run the entire uphill grade. (I ran with Thomas for maybe the first four miles, and then he started to feel bad and dropped back, and never really had a good time on the course, I don't think. There was puking involved. Glad I missed it.)

Once we got to Mile 14, the descent began. Miles 14-18 were glorious -- smooth surface, perfect grade for running freely, lots of shade, not too steep, just really nice recovery miles. After the Mile 18 relay exchange, though, I suddenly got tired. I had been doing pretty well considering the early climb; I was at 2:43 at Mile 18, but suddenly I started to feel hot and queasy. I slowed to a walk and ate some Tums and managed to run again after a while. I ran (slowly) to Mile 20 where my time was 3:02. I simultaneously knew I could be under 4 hours because I knew 100% of the remaining course was downhill, and knew I wouldn't be under 4 hours because of how I felt. I was really surprisingly nauseous, in a way I haven't been in a while. Who knows why. The humidity was 94% at the start line though it did not feel that bad at all. My skin was dry the whole time, not sweaty like it was in Vermont. I didn't feel like I was sweating but I must have been. I had taken my third GU at Mile 18 and knew I could not get another one down. I'd been drinking at every aid station, which I never do, but this time I had to because I felt parched, like the way I used to feel when I first moved to Arizona.

Every runner I talked to between 20 and 26 was complaining about being dehydrated even though all of us were drinking every time we had a chance. The downhills were steep enough that my knees started to hurt. Once I passed Mile 23 (at 3:32) I suddenly felt so sick I thought I was going to puke whether I wanted to or not. (I didn't want to. I have not puked since 1999. I have TRIED to puke during other marathons and been unsuccessful, but I don't try anymore because I no longer care that much about my time in marathons. I would always rather walk it in than suffer the indignity of puking on-course.) So I walked almost 2 whole miles. The scenery just got more grand, with towering cliffs and mountain slopes covered with fallen trees, but absolutely no shade on this section. I forgot to mention that there was a creek or river running alongside the trail almost the whole way. It was full of lovely, bubbling, fresh, clear water and the thought of jumping into it and immersing my whole overheated body became an obsession over the last few miles, so much so that I thought the desire might overwhelm my rational brain and I might just do it. (I didn't. But I did feel compelled to mention it to every runner who passed me or who I passed, all of whom were locked up in their own pain caves and unable to care too much about mine.)

I was able to run again after one more shot of Powerade around Mile 24, and managed to jog the rest of the easy downhill into town. I was feeling all right at the finish line, which surprised me considering how sick I had felt for the last six miles. I am so thankful for whoever discovered and popularized the idea of chocolate milk being the perfect recovery food. It is. I can always tolerate it no matter how I feel, at times when I absolutely could not tolerate any real food. I chugged my chocolate milk, then went back to the finish line to watch Thomas finish (and point out gleefully that he was chicked in the last 50 yards of the finish chute). Neither one of us got good times but I am satisfied with my time. This was a stunningly beautiful course, but definitely not an easy one.

I think I have five weeks until my next marathon, Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina, which by all accounts is a bitch of a marathon that will make this one look like a jog in the park. I can't wait.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Next 25

25 states done means 25 states left, and I have actually planned out a surprising number of them, as in, picked out which race I will do and maybe even which year. This seems like a good time to put out my list to see if any of the runners I know have any of the same races on their lists.

Alabama: First Light Marathon in Mobile, planning to do a back-to-back with Mississippi Blues in January 2017.

Alaska: I really, really want to do the Equinox Marathon in September. That is going to be a huge, expensive trip but... I want it. Probably it will be in my last year of marathons.

Arkansas: I think Hogeye in Fayetteville, in March. Even though Little Rock is way easier to get to, I am totally turned off by the medal, which is like the size of a dinner plate and would totally look out of place with my other medals. Haven't picked the year yet.

Connecticut: Hartford, this October, done as a back-to-back with Newport, Rhode Island.

Delaware: Leaning towards Rehoboth Beach in December, because it would be an "easy" drive and because there are hardly any other marathons in December so it is a good fit schedule-wise.

Florida: I have my heart set on the Southernmost Marathon in Key West, in October. Probably 2017 since there are too many other marathons I want to do in October before this one.

Georgia: Rock and Roll Savannah, in November. Maybe 2016?

Hawaii: Honolulu in December, no idea what year. Probably my last year of 50 states, which is looking like it will be 2018 if I keep up this pace.

Idaho: Already registered for Pocatello in September 2015.

Iowa: Des Moines in October. Hoping to double it with Kansas City, MO, in 2016 if my class schedule permits.

Kansas: Torn between the Eisenhower in April in Abilene and the Prairie Fire in Wichita in October. I have a soft spot for Abilene because I remember driving through it on my first cross-country drive to New York back in 1999. It was the first place I saw soda called "pop" on a menu, and also the first (and last) place I saw gas for under $1.00/gallon in my adult driving life. Prairie Fire seems to be more popular with the Marathon Maniacs crowd. I don't know; maybe I will skip Prairie Fire just because it's in October and there are too many other races in that month.

Kentucky: Hatfield-McCoy in June, hopefully 2016 but I think I might be in class then, so it might have to wait till 2017.

Maryland: Totally undecided, but it will probably be a last-minute sign-up to fill in a gap in my schedule, since Maryland is a drivable state.

Minnesota: Grandma's in June, but no idea what year. I want to say 2016, but, same as Kentucky, it all depends on when I'm in class.

Mississippi: Mississippi Blues back-to-back with First Light, January 2017.

Missouri: Kansas City 2016, doubling with Des Moines.

Nebraska: Don't know, haven't even begun to research it.

New Jersey: Really not sure. There aren't a lot of choices in New Jersey; it's pretty much either Atlantic City or the New Jersey Marathon in Oceanport. I wish they had one in Morristown but so far they don't.

North Carolina: Grandfather Mountain, July 2015. Not looking forward to this one since it will be hot and there are no hills here to train on.

North Dakota: Same as Nebraska, I'll probably let the calendar decide. Maybe Fargo, since it's in May when there aren't a lot of other marathons.

Oklahoma: It has to be Oklahoma City in April. I'm hoping to do this one in 2016.

Rhode Island: As mentioned above, it's going to be Newport in October 2015.

South Carolina: Myrtle Beach in February, hopefully 2016.

South Dakota: Deadwood, June 2015. Two weeks from now!

Wyoming: Haven't decided yet. I know this will be one of my most expensive marathons to get to and also one of the most difficult ones because of the elevation, so I haven't really been in a hurry to pick my Wyoming marathon.

All right, who wants to join me for any of those? Don't everyone volunteer at once!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Heat, Hills, and Humidity -- Shires of Vermont Marathon Race Report

State #25, Marathon #32, halfway there!

I started running in 2005, and it has taken me ten years to get to the halfway point. This year I've sped it up some. I've done three marathons already this year, and am registered for three more, and am planning to register for two more on top of that if I can bring myself to sign up for another back-to-back in October. Anyway, this one, Vermont, was not a planned marathon even two weeks ago. But I thought that maybe I could squeeze in another one between Nashville and Deadwood next month. My thinking was that 1) if I didn't do a marathon, I should probably do a longish run of 15-18 miles this weekend anyway, so might as well do the drive and add a few more miles and get credit for another state rather than doing another double Kensington or something else boring, 2) if I did Vermont, I could then have almost all of New England done, all but Connecticut and Rhode Island, which, coincidentally, have back-to-back marathons in October! If I do the back-to-backs, New England could be the first region of the U.S. that I finish. We all know it was inevitable that once I thought "Maybe I should add another marathon", I was going to. So I did.

Vermont is beautiful; everyone knows that. But I kind of don't get the whole existence of Vermont. I don't get how it can have so many perfectly adorable little towns whose economies appear to be based entirely on antique shops, artisan soap companies, and rustic furniture makers. I don't get how every single view in every direction looks like a postcard. I don't get how residents seem to automatically understand exactly how to make sure that their yards have natural-looking wildflowers but also perfect mowing jobs with diagonal stripes and everything. Vermont is almost too precious. (I like New Hampshire better. Same natural beauty but doesn't look like it's trying too hard to look like peoples' mental picture of perfect small New England towns.) Anyway, just because Vermont looks almost contrived sometimes doesn't mean I don't love it. It would almost be un-American not to love it!

The Shires of Vermont Marathon is a point-to-point course starting in North Bennington at Bennington College, and meandering through the back roads of North Bennington, Shaftsbury, Arlington, and  Sunderland before finishing in Manchester Center. This is a very well-run race. Every single thing about it was perfectly organized. I stayed in Bennington. There was no expo, but there was packet pickup the night before, at the 13.5-mile aid station on the course, which happened to be a church (naturally, a white church with a steeple). At packet pickup, the church was hosting a $10 all-you-can-eat pancake dinner with locally made maple syrup. I should have stayed but I didn't feel like being social. Marathon road trips to me are like my perfect time to just closet myself in my hotel room and read, read, read for hours, what I always want to do at home but never seem to have time for. So I just picked up my number and T-shirt and went straight back to my hotel.

On race morning you can park at either the start or the finish. If you park at the finish, there is a morning shuttle back to the start. This is what I did. This race has an 8:00 a.m. start time, which to me seems late and is really my only complaint about this race. A 7:00 a.m. race start seems like it would be so much better, considering the high temps usually experienced here. I drove to the finish at 5:00 a.m. through green mountains and a beautiful misty sunrise. I knew it was going to be hot because I was already warm even at 5:00 a.m. I didn't really mind because I like heat, but I definitely have not run in the heat at all this year. The marathon in Nashville had the highest temps I've experienced so far, but even that was only about 70, and had cloud cover the whole way. This one was supposed to be 80 with a mix of clouds and sun that turned out to be 100% sun.

On the shuttle to the start line was the famous Marathon Maniac Larry. His shirt said "1400 marathons" (though I am pretty sure he has more than that now). He's done the 50 States nine times and has or maybe at one time had the Guinness Record for most lifetime marathons. I am a Maniac too but as usual was incognito. I decided this is the last marathon I'm doing without Maniac gear. I like the Maniacs more and more the more marathons I do. (And trust me, 32 marathons may sound like a lot to readers of this blog but it is NOTHING in Maniac World, where hundreds of marathons is not uncommon.)

The start line at Bennington College was very laid-back. We were able to wait inside the VAPA (Visual and Performing Arts) building, which had not only bathrooms but also couches. I am getting spoiled by being able to wait inside for marathon starts since my last four marathons have all had this feature. Some day I will have to wait outside again and will not enjoy it. My Michigan Realtor, Andrea, was also doing this marathon, and, oh, wait, she was also doing three more marathons in a five-day stretch. The Shires of Vermont was the first marathon in a stretch of five New England races designed for 50 Staters. Not me, no, never, no thank you. Anyway, I met up with Andrea and we discussed the heat. I really wanted to take my sleeveless shirt off and just run in a sports bra, but it was see-through so I decided against it. I know science says you stay cooler if you cover up with more clothing, but I simply do not agree. I feel better with LESS clothing no matter what science says.

The whole race was pretty much hills, hills, hills from start to finish. I like hills, a lot, but not so much with the blazing sun in my face. I was really hot and sweaty just a couple miles in, and right in the beginning were some long sections with no shade at all. Luckily they didn't last long, and within a few miles we were on hard-packed gravel roads with a lush canopy of trees and plenty of shade. I did not like the gravel roads, not at all. I know I have said before that I am like the princess and the pea when it comes to running on rocks. The tiniest rock that I land on while running feels like a torture device stabbing my foot. Seriously, these eight or so miles of gravel roads made me wish for my Hokas. I was glad to see pavement again.

Earlier I said my only complaint about this race was the 8:00 a.m. start time, but I just realized that is not strictly true. My other complaint is that the course was open to traffic. I mean totally open. At a few points there were cones separating us from the cars, but most of the time there was nothing, even when we were running with traffic. Even though this is small town New England where all drivers are conscientious and pay attention, it still made me a little nervous. As the race goes on longer, my brain gets stupider and I stop thinking about stuff like cars. All it would take is one driver not paying attention and BOOM! runner down! That did not happen and has not ever happened, but still, it made me nervous.

I got to the half feeling basically okay aside from the heat, and even that wasn't bothering me too much. There was a really big hill between Mile 14 and Mile 15 that took me down a notch, even though there was a sweet covered bridge right in the middle of that hill (red with white trim). I walked a lot of that, the first time I walked in the whole race (but not the last!). Then there was a really nice downhill to make up for it. Then the course became totally exposed to the sun, and suddenly I was really, really hot.

I slowed to a walk, fanned myself with my shirt to try to get some air, wiped the salt crust off my face, and touched the bandanna on my head to find that it was, like, sizzling hot. I felt like I was on fire. Screw it! Shirt was coming off, see-through sports bra or not. I took it off and immediately felt better but still in danger of spontaneous combustion. The sun pounded down on me like I was back in Arizona, only with 95% humidity instead of single digits. It seemed like around every single bend in the road was another cheerful little brook running over a perfect gravel bed with perfect wildflowers all along the edges (did I also mention the course smelled like lilacs the whole way?). I wanted nothing more than to go lie down in every bit of running water we passed. It was like torture.

I had not looked at my watch the whole time, as usual. I always try to just run moderately hard no matter what pace I'm actually going. But just before I got to Mile 20, a volunteer at an aid station told me, "You're the third place woman! Second place is tired! Run, you can catch her!" Then I did look at my watch and saw that my time at almost 20 miles was 2:45, which was a crazy good time considering the difficulty of the course. Unfortunately for me, my race was pretty much done. My stomach was really bothering me even though I had stuck to my tried and true fueling plan (gel at 7, 13, 19, no Gatorade, just water). I'd even popped a salt tab at Mile 15 because of how much I was sweating. My legs felt pretty much okay but between my stomach, the sun, the fact that I knew the last 6 miles consisted of a long, gradual uphill, and my absolute lack of desire to try any harder, I decided I was going to take it easy. So I did. (You do the math: 2:45 just before 20 miles, finish time of 4:07. That is all.)

Pretty soon I wasn't the third place woman anymore as a few women passed me. I didn't care about that either. Most everyone was walking now, and bitching about the heat and the hills. I was actually tired of the scenery, no matter how beautiful it was, and just wanted this experience to be done. The temps were fine when I was walking. I managed a slow jog sometimes, but not often. The aid stations started handing out ice, so every time I passed one -- and there was one every mile after 20 -- I stuffed handfuls of ice down my bra at every station and it usually lasted almost till the next one, which was nice and kept the suffering to a minimum.

The finish line was inside some kind of community building in Hunter Park in Manchester Center. Naturally, this being Vermont, the medal was handmade by a local ceramics company. Of course it was! Finish line food was nothing short of spectacular. They had absolutely everything, from soup and chili and sandwiches to pizza, fruit, chips, bagels, chocolate milk, yogurt and granola, and every kind of beverage you can imagine. I wish my stomach hadn't been in such turmoil so I could've eaten more. Andrea finished shortly after me and we watched age group awards. Astonishingly, even with all that walking I still won my age group, something that has never happened at any marathon ever. I got a cool slate serving plate with the name and date of the race engraved on it. (Second and third place age group winners got local maple syrup, which I would have preferred to my plate but I figured it would be awkward to ask to do an exchange.)

I really thought this would be one of my favorite races, but I can't quite say that it was. The hills were okay, but along with the heat were a little much. I just can't figure out why the late start. I would say 7:00 is the normal start time for marathons, especially warm-weather marathons. The lack of separation from traffic was a little disturbing. And finally, when I read in the course description that the course went through five towns, I thought it meant, like, the center of all of those towns, but that really didn't happen. The great majority of the course was rural residential, and mostly looked the same. Even beautiful views can get boring after that many miles. So it was a good marathon and well-organized but I don't think I would do it again.

(This blog was written during a bout of post-marathon insomnia and fueled by mint Oreos and Diet Coke.)

Saturday, April 25, 2015

If You Like Rollers, This Race Is For You! -- St. Jude Country Music Marathon Race Report

I have had this race on my list FOREVER. I always knew it would be my Tennessee race. I love Nashville, I love country music, and I love Rock-N-Roll marathons, so it was a natural fit. It did not disappoint at all!

To start with, Nashville is the coolest of cities. It's pretty, there is tons of stuff to do, and it's alive. It was so nice to be in a city that was lively, not like dead Detroit. Their downtown is beautiful and jam-packed with people walking around. (Side note: The Seeing Eye actually started in Nashville because that was where Morris Frank lived. If the founders had not been such wimps and moved to New Jersey because they couldn't take the summer heat of Nashville, The Seeing Eye might still be in Nashville today. Wouldn't that be cool? I think so.)

The forecast for race day was BAD. 100% chance of rain for Saturday, with severe storms predicted including possible tornadoes. (The whole state was red on The Weather Channel, and the TorCon -- which I had never heard of but is apparently a tornado predictor -- was a 6, which means tornadoes very likely.) There was a lot of discussion on Facebook about whether the race would be cancelled, but ultimately they decided to go ahead and hold it, which was a relief. (The weather turned out to be fine -- 57 with no rain at the start line, no rain throughout the race -- plenty of sun and a little breeze instead -- and 70 at the finish, no tornadoes at all. The Illinois Marathon got cancelled halfway through for severe weather and the Louisville Marathon had rain the whole way, so Nashville just got lucky this time.)

I stayed in the Comfort Inn on Demonbreun, which was walking distance to everything -- the expo, the start line, and the finish line. That was nice. The expo was perfectly organized and huge, but I have to say -- what happened to all the free food? Was 5:30 p.m. on the day before the race just too late to arrive and still got food? Or is that a trend, that free food is disappearing? I am used to getting an entire meal from free samples at the expo, especially at a huge race like this with 30,000 runners, but I went through the whole expo and the only samples I got were a little cup with baby carrots and a minuscule dab of hummus, a cucumber on a toothpick with some spicy sauce on it, and another little bag of carrots with a container of onion-flavored Greek yogurt dip, which I tasted and threw away in disgust. Where were the Power Bars, the Clif Bars, the new drinks, the smoothies, the granola, and all the other stuff? Someone please tell me I was just too late and the good stuff was gone.

I may have mentioned that I am a huge fan of Rock-N-Roll races. I know some people love to hate them. "They're too big!" (People love them and want to participate in them, oh no!) "They cater to the half-marathoners!" (Well, there are like five times as many half-marathoners as there are marathoners, because that's a more attainable distance, so what?) "They're too commercial!" (Running is a business like any other. Would YOU put on a race if you weren't going to make money? I wouldn't.) "They're too expensive!" (That's because they're held in awesome urban areas and it takes money to create an awesome race experience for participants, which I personally am more than willing to pay.) In my opinion, R-N-R races have the best organization (aside from the 2010 San Diego finish line transportation debacle), the coolest courses, by far the best medals, and the best overall race experience, and therefore I am going to continue paying their relatively high entry fees. (By the way, registration for this marathon next year is only $55 right now, which is dirt cheap!) I am sad that in my 50 States quest I will probably only run two more R-N-R marathons -- St. Louis and Savannah -- unless I am forgetting one.

Anyway, there were 40 corrals at the start line. i was in #9. Oh, let me also mention that the First Baptist Church on Broadway, which is an enormous church, opened its facilities to runners. It was amazing that in a race of this size we were able to hang out inside a comfortable building and walk right into the bathroom with either no wait or else a very short wait (less than 5 minutes at 20 minutes to race start). Even though it wasn't raining, we all knew it could have been, and were profoundly appreciative of the church for letting us in. (What Would Jesus Do? Of course, open the church to the runners.)

The first part of the course went through downtown and Music Row. There were hills from the beginning -- constantly. I swear there is no part of this city that is flat. I enjoy rolling hills; they break up the monotony, and the good thing is that there were no too-lomg or too-steep hills. (That one at Mile 16-18 or so seemed a little too long, but then again it was a sweet downhill to the finish line at Mile 25!)  Most of the hills were the kind you could charge up and then coast down the other side, the kind I liked. It was also cool to run past the recording studios. A lot of them had banners out front with big pictures of the famous country singers on their labels.

We ran around Belmont University, where I am pretty sure I worked with a Seeing Eye client like ten years ago. It was a beautiful neighborhood, with huge, pretty houses and the entire neighborhood out to  cheer on the runners. We ran past one big front lawn party after another. After several small marathons in a row, it was a lot of fun to see a place where the city residents were actually proud of their marathon and supportive of it.

(I have a habit of noticing what dog breeds race spectators have with them. In Nashville the overwhelmingly most popular dog breed on the course was the golden retriever, followed by golden doodles, followed by Labs, then boxers, then I lost count. I only saw three shepherds, and none of them looked happy to be there. I didn't see a single Cavalier -- how sad! I did see two Bernese Mountain Dogs and two Australian Cattle Dogs, though. Yes, I am a geek about dog breeds and admit it. So what. Whatever gets me through the marathon, I say.)

Around Mile Ten we ran back into the downtown area, and then the marathon split away from the half-marathon for a tedious out-and-back. I can't remember the name of the road but it was the same one we exited the freeway on yesterday. I hate long out-and-backs, at least on the out part. I do not mind the back part because I get to run past all those people who have longer to go than I do, whereas on the out part I am being passed by people who have less to go than I do, which is depressing. Now, in many past R-N-R Marathons -- like, all of them -- one thing that has been a pain is that they like to split the marathon and the half-marathon but then rejoin them later at a point where fast marathoners meet slow half-marathoners. In this marathon, the marathoners left the half-marathoners around Mile Eleven, ran the out-and-back, and rejoined the half-marathoners at Mile Sixteen, which was still Mile Eleven for the half-marathoners, which meant that 9:00 pace marathoners were joining up with like 12:30 pace half-marathoners, which has created a clusterf*ck in the past. But this time, they had gates separating the marathoners from the half-marathoners, so we were alongside them, but not with them. Brilliant! I was glad once we left the half-marathoners entirely and ran across the Cumberland River. I always want to kill all of them for the crime of being almost done while I still have miles of torture ahead of me.

Miles Seventeen through almost Twenty went uphill, but it was a gradual uphill that didn't hurt. Still, I walked around Mile Nineteen for a few minutes. I hadn't looked at my watch at all, and the clocks at the mile markers didn't really give me any information because the wave start meant that I hadn't started till well after gun time, but I hadn't paid attention to how much after gun time. I had a feeling that I was doing okay -- just the absence of needing to walk, the feeling that I was able to sprint up hills, the number of people I was passing, the fact that I hadn't been passed by a pace group… I wasn't aiming for any particular time though I was certainly hoping to beat my moderately crappy 4:25 from last month's marathon. I saw a lot of people who looked worse than me, and, as usual, that gave me more energy. As a runner, I feel like I am some kind of parasite who feeds off the weakness of other runners. That is not one of my better qualities as a human being, but nevertheless it does come in handy in the later miles of marathons.

Miles Twenty-One through Twenty-four were another out-and-back. This one led us into a park and on a long loop around a lake. Around Twenty-three I saw a guy who was screaming in pain from leg cramps. I asked him if he wanted a salt tab. (I have been carrying them around since I moved to Michigan but have never used them out here.) He said he did. I asked if he wanted one or two, and he said two. I think you're only supposed to take one at a time but my brain was fuzzy and I am pretty sure he was operating on the principle "If one is good, more is better!" I also operate on this principle at this stage in marathons, which leads to me doing things like eating ten Tums instead of four when I'm having stomach issues, so I totally understand. I gave him the salt tabs -- actually put them in his mouth because he didn't seem to be able to lift his hands to do it himself. He took them and I ran off, with new energy because at least I wasn't that guy.

It was really warm by now and I saw several casualties of the heat in the last few miles. The med tent guys were busy. I myself felt basically fine. Oh, I had a blister and I didn't want to run anymore and my legs felt like they wanted to cramp if I kept going much farther, but my stomach was fine and I really had no reason that I had to stop. I wanted to walk anyway but I finally looked at my watch and saw that as long as I kept up 11:00 pace I would finish under four hours. So I grudgingly dug up a little more energy and made it up that bitch of a hill between Twenty-Five and Twenty-Six (short, but nasty) and into the finish chute at 3:58:20 and having run 26.45 miles according to my Garmin.

Two last things that Rock-N-Roll is THE BEST at -- medals, always sparkly and heavy with the date on them, and finish line festivals. There is always a beer garden, which I have no interest in, live music, and tons of free food. I grabbed a banana, a cup of peaches, a mint Power Bar, a Gatorade, two waters, and a chocolate milk as I wandered out of the finish area, and would have grabbed more except I ran out of hands. My stomach was fine and I had eaten about half of what I picked up by the time I got out of the finish area and walked back to my hotel.

The concert tonight is Martina McBride but I am not going because I would rather just walk around Nashville (assuming I can stand when I quit typing this -- I haven't really tried standing after my two-hour nap and am not sure how that's going to feel). State #24 and Marathon #31 in the books! My next planned marathon is Deadwood in June but if anyone twists my arm I might be up for a May one too, to get me to the halfway point sooner.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Bike Path and Mud -- Trailbreaker Marathon Race Report

State #23 (Wisconsin), Marathon #30. (I could've sworn my last marathon was State #23, but no, I checked Marathon Maniacs and this one is definitely 23. Bummer! Still so many states to go!)

I signed up for this race at almost the last possible moment -- online registration closed at midnight March 25, and I clicked "Confirm Registration" at 10:02 p.m. I am in no way in marathon shape. I did a 20-miler in early February, but between that and last weekend's 15, I haven't done anything more than 10, plus lots of cross-training at the gym. It seemed like a waste to not do a marathon in driving distance this weekend, though, since I had Friday off.

Wisconsin is a state that not only had I never run a marathon in, I also had not ever visited. I don't know why; I've lived practically next door to it for two years now, and every guide dog school I've worked for has had grads there. I just never made it until now. The race was in Waukesha, which is a suburb of Milwaukee. It's a 6-hour drive from my house. It didn't look like anything spectacular race-wise; its chief appeal was proximity and cost (only $65 for the marathon, even at the last minute, with lots of cheap motels around).

My mindset going into this race was that I would use it as a supported training run. And it's a good thing that was my plan, because that was totally what it was. It was very small, just over a hundred people in the marathon, and while it had everything it needed, it didn't have one single extra thing. Fine with me -- I'd rather have it affordable and not fancy. If I want fancy I will stick to RNR marathons.

This race was so small it didn't even have an expo. Packet pickup was race morning. It was in the town's rec center, which also meant we had the luxury of hanging out indoors where it was heated and using real bathrooms with no lines. The "heated" was a good thing -- the forecasted low of 27 actually turned out to be 14, and 27 was more like the high. Brrrr. But there was so much sun that I never really felt cold during the whole run, even though I was only wearing one layer.

The first three miles of the race went around town -- along the Fox River and then through the downtown area, which was pretty cool. Then it switched to the Glacial Drum Trail -- which was actually a bike path. A long, long, boring bike path, albeit with some pretty views of farm country. This could've been the Macomb-Orchard Trail here or the American River bike path in Sacramento or really any long, straight bike path anywhere. It was totally flat, straight, and boring. I could usually see one or two runners ahead of me somewhere, but really there were as many runners coming towards me on training runs as there were people in the race. Aside from the boredom, I felt pretty good. I was purposely going slow so I wasn't uncomfortable at all. The colors of this race were blue (the sky), grey (the asphalt), and brown (everything else -- the naked trees, the farm fields, the cattails, the river water). It was a monotonous color scheme that didn't change at all throughout the whole race.

Shortly after the 11-mile mark (8+ miles of bike path), the course crossed the highway onto the Ice Age Trail. The website promised that this part of the race was "extremely rugged". For the first half-mile or so on this trail, I thought that claim was ridiculous. It was a gently rolling forest trail, and my feet were very happy to leave the bike path even if there were a good number of tree roots to watch out for. But then the mud appeared, and stayed. The trail became a giant mud pit where even walking was slightly risky, as evidenced by the number of slide marks in the mud and the number of runners coming the other way with mud smears all over them. I HATE MUD! I walked, and didn't feel bad about it, for two miles to the turn-around.

The turn-around was a lookout tower, reached by a long flight of wooden steps. Then, once we got to the tower, we had to climb six more flights of steps up to the top of it and ring a little bell. This was the highest point in the county and I got a brief impression of a dazzlingly beautiful view of lakes and farm country for what looked like a hundred miles, in every direction, with Milwaukee off in the distance. I'm afraid of heights and the view actually turned my legs to jelly so that when I turned around to come down I had to hold on to the splintery rail with both hands. I still have not decided whether having to climb the tower was cool or annoying. I think a little of both.

In my head I was thinking the run back to the bike path was going to be easy because of the downhill. This was, of course, wrong. It was much more slippery than before, both because gravity was working against my balance and because the trail had now been churned up more by all the runners behind me. What a mess. I walked more. I was never so happy to see boring bike path.

There's not much to say about the rest of the race. Again, on the way back I saw hardly any other runners, at least not runners in the marathon. There were plenty of recreational runners, cyclists, and dog walkers, but zero spectators and at most one other marathon runner in sight, often not even one. I ran most of the way, though not fast.

I was relieved to get back into town for the last mile and a half, but there were still no spectators. There were lots of turns going through the downtown area, but thankfully they were all well-marked and had race volunteers stationed at each one. (This race has gotten negative reviews in the past for confusing, badly-marked course; thankfully they seem to have rectified that problem.) I hadn't looked at my watch the whole time and was shocked to see 4:25 on the finish line clock. I mean, I knew the trail miles had slowed me down but I had felt like I was moving pretty good on the bike path. Later when I checked my watch I saw that I didn't do any miles under 9:00, sort of the opposite of how I felt on my last training run in Detroit when I was BQ pace the whole way while thinking I was running slow. That was kind of disappointing, but at least I didn't feel like puking and I'm not horrendously sore this morning.

Overall this was an okay marathon as long as you aren't expecting scenery, smooth trail, or spectators. I was forewarned of all those things so thought it was acceptable, though certainly not exciting. I sort of wish I'd held out for Milwaukee or Madison, but on the other hand, it would've been a shame to waste a free day off, and now I've got another state done. So it's all good.