I know the 2 people who read this blog want a race report, so here you go!
I just ran the La Crosse (WI) Marathon this past weekend. I picked it because a friend was planning on running it (before an injury) and I have a lot of family down in that area, so it made a perfect excuse to get down and visit them!
I wanted to run a spring marathon just to help keep me motivated to run over the winter and not lose the fitness I had for Twin Cities in October. My training consisted mainly of mileage. I really didn't push my pace much on any of my runs, other than the occasional race (Frozen Half, Ron Dawes 25K, Rear in Gear 5K). But I did pretty well on mileage. I averaged 60+ miles per week, with a few weeks of 80 miles. I ran about 4 or 5 18+ mile runs, including a 23-mile run at Hyland Hills. The Ron Dawes 25K I ran pretty much at marathon pace (6:30) the whole way, so that was also a great training run.
All that aside, I didn't really think of the training as sufficient for a faster race than TCM. I ran TCM in 2:53:02 (read about that race here). So my rough goal for La Crosse was to come in under 3 hours. I planned to go out at a 2:50 or 2:55 pace and see where that left me after the halfway point.
Fast forward to race day:
The course was supposed to be relatively flat, but the elevation profile missed 4 large highway overpasses late in the race. I'd say in the end it was a comparable level of difficulty to Twin Cities.
There were only about 350 marathoners and about double that for the half marathoners and relay runners. That meant there weren't a lot of people out cheering, which also meant that those that were there were more enthusiastic and moved around a lot. There were 4 VERY enthusiastic people cheering for me: Steve, Mike, Paul and Karen. I saw them numerous times, especially Mike and Steve since they followed by bike much of the way. Having them there was invaluable, especially since the crowd support was so light after the halfway point when it was just marathoners left on the course.
The start was pretty well organized, other than a ridiculously small amount of porta-johns. At the start I was asking other marathoners what time they were hoping to get, hopeful that I would have someone to run with for a ways. I found out there were 2 guys hoping to run 2:30's, and one guy hoping to run 3 hours. No 2:50'ers for me. Once we started over the bridge (an AWESOME way to start the race, really scenic), the pack fell quickly into place. The 2 2:30 guys were long gone and it was just me and some half-marathoners. I ran with 2 half-marathoners for virtually the whole first half and we all helped pace each other at 6:30's. We came through the half in 1:25 and I said goodbye to them.
The first half of the course was very residential with a lot of turns (too many turns, frankly). The second half of the course felt like an industrial wasteland. I really liked this race and I hope they improve the 2nd half and get rid of some of the industrial feeling to it.
In the second half I kept the 6:30's going for the most part, backing off a little on the aforementioned highway overpasses. With about 2 or 3 miles to go, I started realizing that I wasn't hitting the wall as badly as I usually do! In fact, I felt downright lucid. I kept my pace up, slowing about 10-20 seconds per mile and after much encouragement from Mike and Steve, I crossed the line with a PR of 2:51:55!!
Throughout the race people kept telling me I was in 5th place overall, but I only knew of the 2 in front, so I thought I was in 3rd place. Turns out there were 2 relay runners in front of me so I really was 3rd place. That was good enough for a trophy and my 2nd place age group award netted me a nice duffel bag. Add to that a couple delicious cans of the local brew, Kul Light, and some turkey sausage and I can say the race was quite the success!
Photo credits to Mike. Thanks!
Here are my splits from this race (the 6:55 included a very short bathroom break):
I feel I ran a much smart and even race than TCM. I think I may be a little stronger from having run all that base all winter and thus was able to hold it together longer.
Here's a graphic showing the comparison between TCM and La Crosse (click for larger version):
All in all, a really fun race. I've never felt so good that long into a marathon. I felt like I stretched myself to the limit, but never cracked. Throughout the race I felt like I was running on the edge. In fact, 8 miles in I got a side stitch, but worked it out. I never felt like I could run faster, but I also rarely felt that I HAD to run slower.
I thought La Crosse did a great job with this inaugural marathon! I would suggest they choose a different route next time. I'm not that familiar with La Crosse (other than running Ragnar Relay there twice). I DO know that La Crosse sits on the most beautiful stretch of the Mississippi River and that the race only had 2 miles within site of it. I hope they can find a route that uses the river more. Also, I don't like marathons that have a relay component. There's nothing worse than having someone with fresh legs sprint by you 20 miles into the race. But other than those minor gripes, the volunteers were AWESOME, the crowd support was great for how few people ran it, and free local beer at the finish??? Fantastic job La Crosse! Pat yourself on your back!