In what may prove to be my last full marathon, the Lincoln Track Club in Nebraska put on a great finale. From beginning to end, this race was top notch.
Sue, Ringo and I headed out on the 3-hour journey Saturday afternoon, May 2. We checked into the Days Inn near the airport and then headed down to packet pick up. The expo was typical, vendors hawking fancy antioxidant concoctions, chiropractors that will straighten your spine and loads of clearance running gear. Packet pick up was smooth and soon, we were on our way to the race sponsored "Pastathon."
In the neat little Stadium Club, across from the University of Nebraska's football stadium, the Pastathon was available to anyone who walked up and wanted to eat. No need to show that you were entered in the race; they welcomed everybody. The meal was nothing fancy; salad, pasta with meat sauce or marinara sauce, bread and fudgesicles for dessert. I loaded up a heaping plateful and settled down at one of the outdoor tables, since the dog was with us. One of the volunteers commented that this was the first time in many years that we didn't have to worry about rain, wind or cold. Today, the weather was perfect! The meal was quite good considering it's simplicity. After dinner, we walked around campus a bit and found a track meet in progress. We hung around awhile and watched some of the pole vaulters and long jumpers.
Race morning came early, I always seen to wake before the alarm; 4;30 am to be specific. It looks to be another beautiful day, around 50 to start with the sun warming us nicely through the mix of clouds. The race begins in the center of campus and the football stadium, along with the Coliseum, is open for bathrooms or just a place to keep warm. There were no pace groups, so I lined up at the 10-minute mile pace marker. The goal today would be to finish in 4:20 or at least beat my best time of 4:24.
The course itself was decent, a mix of campus, neighborhoods, bike trails, and park areas. It's not the most interesting course, but there are almost no hills. The first half is a loop and the second half is an out-and-back. I would say it's a fast course, but for a mid to back of the pack runner, the first half is crowded with all the half-marathoners, especially along the narrow bike trails where it's hard to keep a pace, weaving between walkers and slower runners. The course is great for spectators, as Sue was able to easily find me numerous times throughout the race. There seemed to be plenty of cheering fans---OK, it's not Chicago---but they were everywhere and enthusiastic. The aid stations were THE best I've ever seen in a race. Gatorade and water were clearly distinguishable by the type/color of the cup and half of the cups would have lids and straws, so it was easy to keep running through the station if you wished. They also had numerous stops with orange slices, Vaseline and a couple of GU stops in the second half.
My day started well, I felt good through the first half, but lost a few minutes to my pace and a few more for a bathroom stop. At the halfway point, I was 4 minutes behind, so I began to pick up my pace a bit to try and get back a few of the minutes. This worked fine for miles 13-16; I got back to only 2 minutes behind goal, but the strategy would prove faulty. In miles 17-22 I had to pay back exponentially for the extra burst used earlier and thus came to the realization that I would not meet my goal today. I began to employ some walking in the mix, but pain in my right knee became overbearing. It hurt so much to try and start running again after the walks, that I abandoned the walk and just kept running at a snail's pace. Once the finish line was in view, like any proud marathoner that's feeling defeated, I forced my legs to sprint the last quarter mile and finish on a strong note.
Final time: 4:49:47
After the race, the Coliseum was open for massages and showers. What a great touch! This was the first time I've ever had a massage after a run and believe me, this felt wonderful. There were loads of masseurs and masseuses (wow, I had to look up how to spell those words!) with empty tables waiting. A shower before the long ride home I'm sure was appreciated by Sue.
While I was disappointed today in my results, this race was one of the best overall experiences I've had.
Early on, still looking fresh
Later around mile 22, not so much!