I has been a couple of marathon-centric weeks for me. Two weekends ago I went down to cheer for Nichole Porath as she ran the Chicago Marathon. Nate and I, as well as a couple other friends, dressed up in cow costumes (because everyone at races has cowbells, but there are no cows) and biked around Chicago cheering and ringing cowbells. We were a hit with almost everyone, except one police officer who didn't like us having bikes close to the course.
Since I do most of my running training with Nichole I tried to pick a marathon close in time to the one she was running so our training schedules lined up a closely as possible. The weekend after Chicago was the Mankato marathon. I have a number of relatives that live in Mankato, so I figured if I ran that one I would have no trouble getting a cheering squad together. Tapering for Mankato was actually hard. I have been doing more training this year than I ever have before, so to cut most of it out for two weeks left me pretty restless. The forecast for race day was cold and rainy, which for most people would be good running conditions, but I don't run well in the wet and cold (odd for a ski racer).
The last marathon I ran I went out way too hard and paid for it in the final miles of the race, so this time I resolved to start out in control. My goal pace was 6:15 miles, which would be a 2:44 marathon. Brian, another Northfield runner who trains with Nichole and I, buzzed by me looking pretty smooth before the 1 mile mark. I settled in and ran at my goal pace and it seemed almost easy for the first few miles, but started to feel more like work when we turned into a headwind at about mile 4. I caught Brian again at about mile 9, he still looked alright, but also looked like he was working pretty hard to hold the pace. This was his first marathon, and he still has a bit to learn about pacing. I reached the half-marathon point at 1:22, exactly where I wanted to be, but I knew the second half would be a lot more work. I saw my relatives out cheering in a couple places, and Jeff Lanners had come down to cheer for me as well and he was all over the place. Around mile 16 I saw Nate and Nichole in full cow suit apparel out cheering. I kept up a good pace until about mile 20, then the legs really started to tighten up. I pushed through for a while, but the legs were feeling clumsy and just really stiff. I lost a fair amount of time in the last 10k and finished in 2:51:40, which was good for 6th place.
My finish was a new PR for me, by about 12 seconds. Overall I was happy with the race, but I think my legs still have a faster time in them, so I think Grandma's marathon will have to go on the calendar for next summer. The snow Tuesday night reminded me that ski season is on the horizon though, so now it is time to refocus the training to get ready for winter.