This nice local race was actually one of many during the 3-day Woodstock festival of races (100 mile, 100K, 50 mile, 50K, full marathon, half marathon, 10K, 5 mile, and a 5K) which included lots of music, running, rain, and mud.
This would be my 5th career marathon win and first since March, 2009. What is interesting is that those two races were very similar. Both had horrible conditions (obviously, did you see my winning time?) That race in Ruston, LA was on hard packed mountain bike trail but it had rained for 4 days before the race so it was very slippery, but not so muddy. For this race, it had only rained the previous night, but this was on running trails, so the mud was slippery and thick (several inches) in lots of places.
After a nice nights sleep in my own bed (I love not travelling for marathons!) I got up at 5am and took off for the 1 hour drive to Pinckney Recreation Area near Hell, MI. My good friend, Ryan and his wife had been there most of the night pacing some of the ultra runners. They told me the course was horribly muddy and they were right. Within a mile, we were slipping and sliding on 2-5 inches of mud. The trail is very narrow so in most places, so you couldn’t just run on the side avoiding the mud. The rain that came during 75% of the race was not helping either. I can run in any conditions, but I really don’t like running with my feet wet. Some of the half marathoners were running full speed into the middle of the mud while I was being dainty on the edges. That was until a few of them fell. Hard. Then they wised up. Ahh, experience….
At about mile 4 there is a long out and back spur so I knew I was in second place in the full marathon with about 6 half marathoners also in front of me. I had no real dreams of the win, I just wanted to try to enjoy my day and have it not suck, which today meant not becoming miserable or getting lost like my last race. Luckily, the course was very well marked, so that part was fine.
At about mile 11 into the race, a halfer and I who were running together passed the marathon leader. I asked him how he felt and he said ‘pretty good’. He was (obviously) a newbie to marathons and had just gone out too fast. Once I reached the halfway point, I knew I would be alone for most of the rest of the race, which was true except for the other distances racers I was passing as the courses overlapped quite a bit. I felt really good, and I was re-running the same loop again and knowing exactly what to expect helped.
When I got to that same out and back spur, I checked my watch and I realized had a full 4 minute lead on the second place guy (not the original leader, by the way) but I felt strong. With my ultra experience and endurance, I knew even at that point, that I was going to finish strong. I slowed the back half of the race (always do) but never blew up (sometimes do). I just kept repeating the mantra ‘don’t blow up and you get the win’.
As I was coming back to the start/finish the marshals saw my bib and wanted me to head back out again (a 3rd 13.1 mile loop) and I told them, no, I was finishing. I crossed the finish line and there was nothing. Two more people asked me if I did the loop 2 times. I know there a bunch of other races, but can I get just a smidgen of joy, a half hearted handclap?
I wanted to head home, so I walked up to the awards table and asked them how long they thought it would take until my win was official so I could get my award. They asked me “Did you do two loops?” so I showed them my GPS watch and said “well, my watch did!”. I guess they were not expecting me so soon based on the horrible conditions (second place was over 4 hours). After a few back and forth iterations of the officials, I finally got my ‘gold record’ award and I was on my way. The trophy was totally cool looking, I think the coolest award I have received,. I was later telling SJ about it, and she asked if it would play. Upon inspection, it looks like there is real audio recorded on it. I think I need a record player