On Sun May 3 2015, I ran the Kalamazoo Marathon in Kalamazoo MI. Michigan became the 31st state in which I have run a marathon, getting me a little closer to my 50 state goal.
I was really looking forward to this race because it would be the first time in quite a while that I met up with any of my running friends that I had met online, quite a while ago now. I was the only one of this group who would be running the full marathon, but Duck
were running the half, and Kath
all lived near enough to Kalamazoo that they would come in for the day hang out.
In addition, this was a reunion marathon for the 50 State club. While I see fellow 50 Staters at just about every race, this was only the second time I attended a reunion race. The first was in Wilmington DE
a couple years ago.
For a while now, I had been bemoaning the fact that my marathon times have been getting slower and slower, and I'd been worried about getting a new Personal Worst. So far, I had avoided that PW, albeit not by much. Especially in my last race in South Carolina
in January. I had been using my ever-advancing age and the sciatica I endured last summer as the reasons for my slowening. (I think I made that word up). In truth, I just haven't been training well. Specifically, I haven't been training enough. A few years ago, I would regularly run 40 to 45 miles in a week. But since that last marathon in January, I had only even reached 30 miles in a week four times, and only once over 40. I like to use the excuse that I'm just too busy to train like I used to. True, I have more commitments now with my daughter's various after-school activities. But I could find the time (like running in the evenings after dinner) if I really wanted to. I guess I've just gotten lazy.
This training session hadn't been much different than the one I did for South Carolina. But that race was run in the winter on a cool day. It was going to be sunny and warm in Michigan, with temps pushing to the upper 70s. After the cold winter we had, temps in the 70s were going to feel like the 90s. Heading in to Michigan, I resigned myself to the fact that I would get a new PW. It would be nice to keep my first marathon in Chicago as my slowest one for a while longer, but so be it. It's more important just to get them done and keep moving towards 50.
I flew in to Detroit on Saturday morning, rented a car, and drove a couple hours west to Kalamazoo. As always, I like driving around places that are new to me, so I didn't mind the drive at all. Some time during the drive, there was an earthquake
very near Kalamazoo, the first one there since 1947. It was small (4.2 magnitude) and I didn't even notice it in my car. I heard about it soon thereafter. I thought that was a very interesting way to begin the weekend...
After arriving in Kalamazoo, I went to the expo for the packet pick-up, and I met up with Duck
. I had last met Duck
when I ran his hometown marathon in Eugene Oregon in 2010. Originally from the Kalamazoo area, I guess this is his "other hometown" marathon. He went over a map of the course with me and told me where to expect the hills, etc. Spoiler alert: There's a big hill at Mile 22.
After I parted with Duck
, I went to the 50 Staters reunion at the expo. Each person stood up and introduced themselves, and spoke about how many marathons they've completed, etc. As I've noticed in the past, I was among the younger of the people in the room. And also as I've noticed before, I was progressing through the 50 staters much slower than everybody else. It's taken me nearly 10 years to complete 31 states. Some people have done that in a year or less! I can't imagine spending that much time on the road, much less completing marathons in such rapid succession. In fact, a few people at the meeting had just completed a marathon in Kenosha WI that morning and were preparing for Kalamazoo the next day. Completing one marathon was going to be enough trouble for me. I can't even think about doing two in two days.
Once the reunion was over, I went back to my hotel. Amichel
and her husband were staying there also, and I met up with them at the sports bar downstairs for dinner. We watched the Kentucky Derby and I had greasy bar food and a beer. Not the best pre-marathon fuel, but this is what I do. When dinner was finished, I went up to my room to relax and call it an early night.
Sunday morning was race day. I met Amichel
in the lobby, and we caught the bus out to the start/finish line, where we met up with Duck
. As the start of the race neared, we each headed into the corral to our preferred pacing groups. It was already sunny, and it was obvious that it was going to be warm in a few hours.
I wanted to start the race slow to conserve some energy. For some reason, I ran the first mile in 9:03, which is much faster than I intended. So I tried to slow down a bit. And I ran the second mile in 8:50. Umm... oops. So far, I hadn't been pacing myself very well.
I did slow down in Mile 3, and maintained a slower pace from then on. However, I could feel myself starting to get warm, and it didn't take me long to get rather sweaty. The course took a very winding route
around town. We went through the Western Michigan University campus and then around an industrial campus near the highway that was deserted on Sunday. We had run basically in a southwesterly direction until this point, and then we began heading back towards the northeast. I crossed the halfway point at about 2:05:45. This is actually a couple minutes faster than I completed the first half in South Carolina. So far, things were looking pretty good. But it was getting hotter.
I completed Mile 16 in 9:48. And that was my last mile under 10 minutes. This is the point where the wheels began to come off. I was getting really hot, and I started downing tons of water and sports drink at every water stop. My stomach began to get queasy, and I'm not sure if it had to do with the fact that they weren't using Gatorade, but some nasty knock-off called Gu Brew, I believe. It was foul-tasting stuff, but at the rate I was sweating, I felt I needed something more than just water.
I was now incorporating walk breaks almost every mile. The hills were numerous, but not terrible, for the most part. The hill at Mile 22, however, was rather nasty. Had I been running the whole way (like I did in my younger days), this hill probably would have really annoyed me. In this race, it didn't matter. I just walked up the whole thing, conserving what little energy I had left. For spending so much time walking here, I finished Mile 22 in 14:17, which was by far my slowest mile in this race, and might just be the slowest mile I've ever recorded in a race. I was spent and feeling pretty terrible. There was no way to avoid a PW now, although I really didn't care.
I spent the last few miles alternating walks and run/shuffles. It was not a very pleasant final hour of the race. Near the 26 mile mark, I saw my friends who had been waiting (a long time) for me. I trudged to the finish line, and completed the race in 4:36:14, a new PW by 8.5 minutes. More importantly, state #31 was finally in the books.
As always, my 50 State shirt was a conversation starter among various fellow runners. 50 Staters and non-50 Staters often ask about my progress when they see the shirt. More than once I was asked whether this was the hardest marathon I had ever done. While I wouldn't call this the easiest, it was also far from the hardest -- despite being the site of a new PW. So I wondered why multiple people asked me if it was the hardest. Either their limited knowledge of marathons made them think that this race with a few hills MUST be really hard; or I just looked so darn terrible out there that a veteran marathoner would only look that bad at a really difficult race. I kinda hope it was the former reason...
Anyway, after the race, our group planned on meeting up at a bar for some food and beer. However, I felt absolutely terrible. All I wanted to do was go back to my room and collapse. I got a ride back with Amichel
and her husband, and I said I'd meet at the bar, but that I needed some rest first. I didn't say it, but I was afraid that I'd fall asleep and not wake up until the next morning.
Thankfully, I woke up after only an hour, and I felt tons better. I'm not sure why, but that one hour of sleep made a world of difference for me. I no longer felt like I wanted to puke, and I was ready for more greasy food and beer. So I met up with the group, and we had an enjoyable afternoon. It's always fun to meet up with folks from my running group, and I wish we met up more often.
While I felt better, I was still exhausted. So I called it an early night again, and I slept in Monday morning as well. Adequately rested, I made my way back to Detroit and flew home Monday evening.
Despite the heat and my poor performance, I enjoyed the race. I'm afraid my memory of the course isn't what it usually is, probably because I was spending most of my energy trying not to pass out instead of partaking of the view. From what I recall, the course had its scenic moments and its not-so-scenic moments. Like most marathons. There were plenty of areas with sparse crowd support, but there were more fans than I expected for a race of this size. I probably saw more homemade signs at this race than in any other. I always like seeing clever homemade signs.
All in all, I'm glad I chose this as my Michigan race. I'd like to think that I can use this race as a wake-up call of sorts to get my act in gear and train better before my next marathon, whenever and wherever that is. I don't care about the PW as much as I did not like feeling terrible after the race. I'd like to return to the days when I can run a marathon and not feel like I need to puke. It remains to be seen if I can commit to training properly. By the time the next Race Report comes along, we will see...
And now a bunch of pictures. There are links to two videos mixed in as well...