It’s getting tough to write race reports lately. I find it difficult to find positives in my declining performance, but at the same time, nobody is going to want to read what I have to say if it’s always bitter. I had another tough run at the Grizzly Marathon in Choteau, Montana Saturday, but I’ll regroup and give it my all again next weekend.
The Grizzly Marathon course is actually pretty challenging. It’s a pretty quick, flat start for a couple of miles, but it’s an out-and-back and about 22 of the miles are run on a gravel road. There are a lot of rolling hills, including a few nice climbs early that add to the challenge. I wouldn’t totally call it a road course, although I certainly wouldn’t call it a trail run. I’d just call it challenging. Overall, I’d say the hills were a little more challenging than San Francisco last week. The footing wasn’t terrible, but it sure wasn’t a quick asphalt track.
The weather was nice, about 60 degrees. We were exposed to the sun without shade for the entire race, but we had cloud protection for about half of the run. So, it was a challenging day, but not the most challenging day I’ve faced this year.
Normally, I’ll either go all out by heart rate from the beginning or I’ll try to keep it at a pace I know I’m physically capable of. Basically, it’s go-for-broke or try to go conservative and run a 3:10 regardless of what I could have gotten. Lately, I haven’t been able to come close to 3:10, which is incredibly frustrating. I know I ran my 36th marathon of the year on Saturday, but that doesn’t make slowing down any easier on me mentally.
So, I went out gunning for a 7:20 pace. I figured I’d just go conservative, not even try to run faster than a 3:12 pace or so, and tick off consistent splits. The pace was easy at first. Really, really easy. I was tired, having slept only about 9.5 hours the previous two nights, but I truly think I could have held onto that all day on a better course, even as beat up as I am. But when we hit those gravel roads, there were hills right away and I couldn’t hang.
I didn’t panic, because I knew I’d be getting everything back on the way in, but I wasn’t getting my legs back on the downhills on the way out. I just knew it was going to be a tough day pretty quick. I remember feeling sluggish by mile 6, which is way too early for that.
The course itself was really nice. The views were great — lots of open farmland and mountains way off in the distance. I’m not the city type — I’m pretty laid back and I like calm and open space, so the sights were extremely relaxing. For me, this was my kind of place — not much around other than a few nice people here and there. The support was pretty good, too. There were aid stations every 1.5 – 2 miles and the volunteers were pretty friendly.
Anyways, I could tell by counting runners near the turnaround that I was in fourth place, a considerable distance from third, and I could tell when I turned around that there were two or three people within a minute or so behind me. I was dragging and feeling sorry for myself because I felt so sluggish.
I started to mentally think about throwing in the towel and just going through the motions. I’m getting so sick and tired of this. I believe in what I’m doing and I really believe in the cause, but it’s so hard to do this. I’m exhausted, I’m beat up and I’m sick of always worrying about how much money I’m raising. Some people tell me I’m a machine, but I’m just a guy and I struggle to stay tough. The physical issues of this are one thing, but the mental issues are pretty demanding, too.
I was thinking about the verse at the bottom of my site a lot in the middle third of the race. I’m growing weary and I know I can’t give up. But it’s just hard right now and I still have five months of this left. I started praying for strength to get through at about mile 18, because I was really dragging physically, which was bringing me down mentally. I don’t normally pray for something like that, because I don’t think getting through a marathon is that important, but I was miserable.
Anyways, between about 14 and 18, I was leapfrogging with a guy who was a little younger than me. He took me on the uphills and I got him back on the downhills. He eventually pulled about 1,000 feet ahead of me and I was firmly back in fifth place with a runner about 50 yards behind me. There was a long downhill between around maybe 21 and 23 and I decided it was now or never if I wanted to get back into 4th. Placement like that isn’t that big of a deal in a race that only had 76 finishers, but you still want to do your best.
I passed him with authority at about 23 and did what I could to stay as strong as possible for a little while. I wanted him to lose hope of catching me and not make a late kick on me. Soon after that, I saw the third-place runner about 1/4 mile up. I kept powering to keep myself from slipping back to fifth and I started reeling in the man in third. I could tell I was going to catch him, so I set him as a target.
I went through the same thought process with him. I was passing him at around 25.5, which was kind of early to make a move like that, but I was moving well and didn’t back off. I passed him on a left turn and I could see the finish line off in the distance.
I just kept kicking as hard as I could. My shirt was flapping a little bit and I couldn’t tell if that was his footsteps or me, so I kept cruising. I was running well and felt pretty confident I had him beat, so I did the unthinkable and looked over my shoulder (well, while looking to the side — it wasn’t totally obvious). I had a football field on him with about 1/4 mile to go, so I knew I had it locked up. I went hard through the finish and went 3:35:06, good for third overall.
The time is pedestrian for me, a combination of the course and me just not having it. I’ll never know what I could have run on a different course on Saturday, but I’m not going to dwell on it. I’ll just figure out ways to adjust my training so I can start swinging my times in the right direction.
Whatever the case, Operation Jack rolls on. 36 down, 25 to go.
Look, it’s me at the finish line of a marathon!