The question in my last post was To C or not to C?
The answer? Not to C….officially.
Unofficially, I fought off the cramps like a cramp fighting mofo from their first twinge at 19.5 miles through to the finish.
But let’s talk in typical linear race reports detail fashion as I know that’s what most of you are used to and I don’t want to confuse anyone by jumping around all non-linearly…like a Savlador Dali warped rhombus or something.
Can you say clusterf*ck? I can. It’s spelled D-E-T-R-O-I-T city streets. We arrived downtown at 6:15 for a 7:10 start. And then crept along at roughly 4 winos per 15 minute pace for the next 40 minutes until runners everywhere, including myself, jumped out of our cars in the middle of the street to run to the start line. I felt sorry for the runners who were driving themselves and couldn’t leave the car idling next to Bummy McCarjack. Did they make it to the start in time? Who knows? Good luck, Mrs. Nitmos and kids, I don’t envy you continuing to “drive” in that mess.
The Get Go
I don’t know if a race horse really has to urinate badly. It’s a long held belief that people have to “piss like a race horse”. If so, count me in. There was no chance to get through the port-a-potty line in time so I decided to find one on the course. Starting in corral B, I should be able to get to one before a line developed. Alas, I had forgotten the pre-race gift from Steer Tange which would have solved that problem (more on that in the next post).
Off we go, down past old Tiger Stadium, around mile 1, which is partially demolished. A tear welled up and promptly froze on my cheek on mid face descent. It was mid 30’s at race start.
Over the Ambassador Bridge at mile 3. This was a highlight. Looking to my left, the Detroit skyline was illuminated by the rising sun. I’m now convinced any city looks beautiful off in the distance with a new sun behind it. This was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen during a marathon. No jokes. It really was neat.
Into Canada off the bridge and wrapping around to the riverfront. It’s funny, the Canadians looked just like us. I didn’t expect Centaurs but, you know, something different.* Detroit still on my left as we go along the river for about 3 miles. The miles are flying by. I feel great. In fact, I have to remind myself to pull back as a few of the miles dipped below 7 minutes here and I wanted to maintain 7:10/mile through the first 16 miles or so.
Into the underwater tunnel for the return trip to the U.S. It’s warm in the tunnel but, you know, pretty cool also so I barely noticed. It’s one mile long. I don’t know what I clocked but probably close to a 7 minute mile here which will be printed onto an Underwater Mile certificate I’ll receive in the (e)mail some day, as I understand it.
Back in the U.S.S.R **
Finally, a port-a-potty just after the tunnel. If there was one before this point, I don’t remember seeing it. I jump in and unleash the stream. My internal waste management system and I have had a long and stormy relationship. Of course, I’m hoping for a quick expelling and back onto the course. Does it cooperate? Well, at some point, I remember looking down at the non-stop stream and muttering out loud ‘I always knew you hated me. Why are you doing this now? End already. I’ll pinch you off. I really will.’ Meanwhile, roughly 17.5 million runners passed by and Garmin leaped forward about 47 minutes. I might be exaggerating.
Back on the course and peeling off miles like a race horse. A different kind of race horse this time. I crossed the half mat at 1:33:02. I was seeking 1:34 so I’m pretty happy here and feeling strong. But I always feel strong at this point. Trouble lurks ahead. To C or not to C?
Can I have Seconds?
The second half of the race poses some challenges. Less crowd support. A three mile jaunt on Belle Isle which is the caving point for many a participant in this race, or so I’ve been warned.
I start popping some Endurolyte salt capsules I brought along for the first time for this race at 16 miles. I’m digging them out of my Ziploc sandwich bag while running along the Detroit riverfront walk in full view of two police officers who must be considering what this person is doing with a sack full of pills. Images flash through my mind of being tackled over the railing into the Detroit River Miami Vice style.
Until the 17 mile mark, every mile has been at 7:17 or less.
Ring the Belle
I had been warned multiple times that the 3 mile loop on Belle Isle is tough. It’s the most difficult mentally. It’s windy. There’s not much crowd support. At 17 miles, we entered Belle Isle and I was feeling like I could run all day.
Having never been to Belle Isle before, I was checking the park out. I was still pacing in the 7:15-7:25 range. The 3 miles went by in a flash. I don’t know what the concern was here. For me, it was a great break in a “normal” marathon road miles.
The only down side was just before leaving the island. I felt the familiar grab in my lower left leg. The beginnings of a calf cramp at mile 19.5. Crap.
Don’t Sell Myself Short
I was determined to fight the cramps off as long as I could. I had latched onto the back of this short, body builder looking dude running a nice pace. I immediately judged him as probably having a Napoleon complex but figured I’d pace behind him as long as I could before passing him and slapping him on top of the head with a hearty ‘Way to go, Spanky!’.
Coming off of Belle Isle I got an unexpected motivational boost. Brian Sell, A Brooks-Hanson team member and one of our U.S. Olympic team marathoners from Beijing, was stationed at the 20 mile marker. I recognized him immediately as I approached. He was standing with a group of folks in red jackets just past the bridge. He looked at my bib, saw my name, pumped his fist and yelled “Go Mike Go!”.*** And how can you not put a little jump in your step when one of the worlds finest marathoners just called you out by name?
My whitehead is oozing all over the course. I’m being swept down the road on a river of diseased skin pore secretion. I’ve run the race I wanted if I can just keep the cramps away. At 20 miles, I’m at 2:23:40.
I followed Napoleon for the next 3 miles. Each mile in the 7:30 range. I’m in full on War of Post mode. I have several minutes banked for a BQ. I fully accept that running negative splits is the preferred marathon method. At the 21 mile marker though, there is simply no way I’m speeding up. But I am drawing inspiration from the knowledge that I’m way ahead of BQ pace. Between miles 21-23, I challenged Napoleon but immediately felt a grab in the calves each time. Just run, baby, at a nice easy pace. The legs are not allowing sub 7:30 miles at this point even though, cardio vascular-wise I feel great.
The 3:10 pace team passed me at mile marker 23. I secretly wanted to beat 3:10. I stepped it up in a vain attempt to keep pace, watched my left leg kick out to the side in a cramp, and decided, no, I’m happy at the pace I’m at.
Mile 24 Napoleon started pulling away. Mile 24 and 25 were my worst at 8:06 and 8:13 respectively.
Rounding the corner to the finish, I knew I was close to a PR if I could give one last burst. The BQ was in the bag. I decided to give what I had. What I had was 2 fast steps and then both legs cramped and kicked off to the side like the worst Rockette audition in history. Nope. I’ll just finish the race and call it a day.
I crossed officially in 3:12:29. My PR is 3:12:19.
10 lousy seconds. Oh, well.
I didn’t cramp out to the point of ruining my race.
I BQ’ed again.
I’m quite content with that.
Some things you may be wondering about: I did, in fact, actually spoon Mrs. Nitmos at the finish. There is a photo somewhere once I find it. My stallion arrived in the form of a Chevy Equinox which did transport me to the nearest Applebee’s. ****
More thoughts and amusing tales in the days ahead as I confined this entry to just the Detroit Marathon itself. Thanks for reading this ridiculously long post.
Numbers? Yes, numbers.
192nd / 12,584 total runners
26th / 940 in age group
Note: These placement numbers look off to me (as in Too High) but that is what is published as of now but may be subject to change. We'll go with it for now.
* Just teasing, Canadians. I know you don't look like half-man, half horse beasts. But no tails did surprise me.
** As in Back in the United States for Some more Racing.
*** I don't put "Nitmos" on race bib. Otherwise I just know some jerkwad will say "Go, Nitwit, Go!" which is not nearly as motivational as you might guess.
****And the "nearest Applebee's" was, in fact, my filly's two soccer games which we hopped in the car to get home just in time for her to play. And she scored 5 more goals in the 1st quarter of one of the games!