I have not raced a marathon after running Boston marathon in 2017. In Boston I got fried in the heat along with my buddy David Vande Walle and we both finished in 3:09 whereas our goal was sub 3.
If you are running Boston marathon, please don’t get excited about the fact that it’s a net downhill course. That course is brutal and if weather is not good, running a fast marathon there is very challenging.
After almost two and half years of break from marathon and focusing on ultra distances. I decided to do one of my favorite marathon in Milwaukee. Since the weather is good most of the time in October and course is almost flat, I thought of getting a Personal Record (PR) in that race.
I lost my marathon speed during training for ultras. I decided to include some speed workout in my training 6 weeks prior the race. I contacted my friend Greg Cooper and requested for his advice. He kindly gave me some very useful tips. I also called my coach Anthony to know what I need to do to run between 2:45-2:50? They both were very kind to suggested me some great workouts that included intervals and tempo runs.
Speed training leading upto the marathon
My weekly mileage was around 80 -miles per week with some weeks going up to 100 miles. When I included track workout and a tempo run by maintaining the same mileage, I felt super tired. High mileage with speed workout don’t go well together but I survived the pain and tiredness.
I did some 4-6 solid weeks of 80 miles per week that include one track workout and one fast finish long run of 18 miles. In fast finish long run, I ran last 8-10 miles at my goal marathon pace (6:15-6:20 per mile). The first half was at around 7:30-7:40 pace.
I did not do any run longer than 18 miles and I can confidently say that in a marathon training, long run more than 18 miles are not needed but people do that anyway. I did not do that.
If you ask me which period of the training I dislike the most? It is unquestionably the tapering. In past, I have over tapered and felt horribly sluggish during the race. Other times I did not taper properly and my legs were tired when I started the race.
I was able to solve the tapering mystery for myself. I ran 93 miles in a week-2 weeks before the marathon day. I then ran 73 miles one week before the race that included very hard track workout 10 days before the race. I felt very tired after that workout and thought that I should not have done that. When I felt little better on Saturday, I again went with my buddy David for a 11 mile run at 6:45 and that felt very controlled and good.
David asked my how many miles I am going to run in the week leading upto race. I said may be 25-30. I took that week really slow and felt great starting Tuesday. Wednesday-Thursday were great too with 4-8 easy miles. I hopped on treadmill on Saturday morning to do 4 more miles with last mile at the race pace.
Since my friend Donna was running lakefront marathon too, she kindly agreed to pick my bib number on Saturday. I requested my friend Ranjit to hand me over little water bottles at mile 14 and 21 because it is sometimes difficult to run with a water cup from an aid station.
I woke up at 4:15 and prepared much needed tea and left home at 5:10am. Google map showed that I should be at the start line by 6:50am and race was supposed to start at 7:30am.
I did stop for some coffee on my way to Grafton and then I had to again take a bathroom stop. Now my GPS was screaming -ETA 7:06am. Donna called me at 6:50 to know where am I? I said that I will be there by 7:10am. I parked my car half mile away from the start line because of all parking lots were full. Ran to Grafton high school and picked my bib from Donna and Jonathon and put that at 7:20am. Jonathan agreed to carry my beg to the finish line. I put my jacket and other stuff to him and rushed to rest room again. It was 7:25am and I was in the line for restrooms.
3 minutes to the start of the race and I started running towards the start line. American national anthem was already being sung by someone so I stood still for a bit.
I saw many elite runners in the first coral and later realized that prize money for the winner was very good. The winner of this year will take $5000 home if he/she run faster than Olympic qualifying mark.
The prize money made sense of elite presence at the start line. I stood just behind all elite runners when someone called me. It was my friend Tim Valley. I was under the impression that he is not running but he decided to sign up last minute.
The race announcer said that 1 minute to go and energy at the start line was high. He counted-10, 9,8 —-till 1 and we all took off. I felt like my uncle is watching me and asking me run with full strength.
I started slower than I plan to and my first mile was in 6:48. I did not freak out because race has just started. I again heard someone saying, “ Nice job why-kaas”. It was Lucy who I know from ice age trail 50. We greeted each other and I kept watching my pace. Second mile was at 6:28 and I felt pretty controlled. There were few rolling hills in the beginning and the weather was ideal. I kept watching my pace and tried to bring it to 6:30 by mile 6-7 and I was able to do that without any issue.
I was able to grab water from aid stations and take sips. One very young dude passed me at mile 7 and since he was in a blue shirt I named him “Leelu”. Leelu and I kept running back and forth. Some times, he was ahead of me and other times he was breathing on my neck. I asked him if he is shooting for 2:50 and he said, yes a little faster than that.
Leelu took off around mile 10 and I saw him entering rest rooms at mile 12. I kept moving with a controlled pace.
My goal was to be at 13.1 mile mark in 1:24-1:25 and I hit the timing mat at 1:24:25. Everything was very good and well controlled. Math calculations for my finish time was going on in my mind and I was feeling confident that I will be able to finish in 2:50.
At mile 14, I took my home made gel and Ranjit handed me a water bottle. Quickly took some sips and threw the water bottle. It was getting tougher now and I looked at my pace which was around 6:24 per mile at mile 16.
I furthermore picked the pace from there and brought it down to 6:22 by mile 18 and felt really good about that. My Legs were getting tired now but still not too bad. I was thinking to hit 2:46 if not 2:45 finish.
Spectators and volunteers were awesome. Gatorade and water was being served at each aid station and energy was very high.
My coach Anthony Kunkel had told me to sip water using thirst as an indicator and I felt really thirsty from mile 3 onwards. So, I almost used 4-5 aid stations during the race. I grabbed water cups while maintaining the pace and took few sips during running. It worked really well this time.
After mile 18, I started passing many tired runners. I saw an elite runner throwing up at mile 20 and felt bad as it was not a great day for her. Someone was helping her with water.
Mile 21, Ranjit handed me over a water bottle and I took my home made gel with it to push through last 5 miles. I kept pushing till mile 23. Mile 23-25 were downhill and I was determined to hammer those down even faster. Mile 23 in 6:09, mile 24 in 6:15.
I have never felt so great in any marathon. I found runners to chase and chase them down. Passed around 10 runners at mile 24. Saw another group of 4, quickly passed them and I was feeling awesome. Around mile 25, I saw another one and ran even faster.
In last mile I could see 3 more runners at least quarter mile ahead of me. A part of mile 26 was water clogged and some runners ran through that and so did I. My feet felt really cold but it was only 0.1 mile of water running.
I could smell the finish line and wanted to chase as many runners as I could. Mile 25.5, passed one more. There were two more ahead of me. One very tall dude and the third place woman. I chased the tall dude around mile 25.8 and then started sprinting to catch the third place woman. Spectators started cheering and I gave my all but third place woman finished one second ahead of me.
My pace of last 0.4 mile was 5:45. It could not have been better. What I wonderful race! I wanted to finish in 2:46:xx but missed the mark by 11 seconds. 2:47:11 is not bad too and is a PR by 11 minutes.
Running marathon is hard. No matter what, your body will be in absolute pain and so was mine at the finish line. I stood at the finish line with my hands on my knees and missing my uncle. My eyes were wet when a doctor asked me if I am doing ok? He walked with me till the refreshment area where I took some water and sat down.
Many runners who I passed in the last two miles came to congratulate me. I saw Matt volunteering there and chatted with him for a bit.
Leelu finished in 2:55 and came to chat with me.
I met many runners who I knew and had great conversation. Donna’s husband Jon came 15-20 minute after I finished the race. I grabbed my beg from him and changed my wet shoes and called Namrta to let her know about the race
Jon and I waited for Donna to finish. Donna ran a strong 3:27 even with knee pain.
Donna and Jon then dropped me to the starting line where I had parked my car.
It was a great race. I can’t ask for better weather, course, volunteers, friends and family and I am grateful for what I have and what I do. THANK YOU Uncle, I dedicate my run to you. RIP.