Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Kalamazoo Marathon - Recap

On 5/8/16 my husband and I ran the Kalamazoo Marathon in Michigan. It was marathon #11 and state #10 for him, marathon #5 for me. This had been on the radar for a while but that plague I mentioned derailed my training plan entirely. To the point where my longest run going into this was 13 miles. There was no way going into this to race it (and it's hilly enough in retrospect that that's okay anyway....) and realistically/responsibly...yeah, probably should have said "Oh well, stuff happens" and scrapped it. Instead, I ran it with my husband at his pace and actually had a really really good time.

Kalamazoo is about 3 hours from where we are, so we headed out to the expo Saturday and stayed in a hotel that night. The expo wasn't much to write home about but all things considered was okay.

Obligatory bib shot!

We ate at a pub called Olde Peninsula and it was delicious, albeit super slow service. Apparently it was prom night. Who knew! The area is well known for its microbreweries and Keith had an anniversary IPA, with a ridiculously high ABV. As I am not a beer drinker, I stuck to water.

This beer is in a fancy liquor glass because reasons.

After an early morning wakeup on Sunday, we got dressed and bodyglided up, had breakfast and set off. It was supposed to get up there in temps - 69 by 11, with mostly sun. I wore my heat gear, which is my happygirl skirt from Skirt Sports, Nike Dri-fit tank that Kim recommended (seriously, why did I cheap out and only buy one of those? sigh), and I decided to trial my new Skirt Sports visor. (I'm not a SS ambassador - I just really like their stuff!) I managed to not get a full body shot all day, but it's pretty much a minor variant of what I wear to every hot race albeit with the visor instead of a bondiband.

Fortunately, the portopotty lines were fast and when we made it to the start line, there were portopotties there too, so what the heck - we went a second time. The race went out on time although it was realllly congested to start with; they started the full at the same time as the half. They've done waves in years prior so this was kind of disappointing, but really the only complaint I had about the race. It was chilly waiting to start but I ditched my arm warmers almost right away; it was mid 50s which was perfect to run in.

After the first four miles, the half split out and suddenly the course was empty. We were running at the back of the pack and there were only about 500 people anyway, including the Mitten Challenge people who had braved the Wisconsin marathon the day before. (Apparently there were about 90 of them, so fully 20% of this race had done a marathon the day before...and we still came in almost last. Haha!) My goal was very simple: This was Keith's race and I was just tagging along. If I didn't slow him down, it was a win. He runs a lot slower so I thought while being out there a long time was gonna hurt, I was pretty sure I could at least not slow him down. The first 5 miles were probably a little faster than he intended since they were all flat or downhill slightly, but it wasn't bad.

I took my first gel at mile 5, sticking to my normal fueling plan. I was a little thrown because they didn't have gatorade or powerade on course - it was "GU brew" and the stuff was...undrinkable. I decided I'd see how I felt and gel more often if I needed to. Other than figuring out the GU brew snafu, the first 7 miles were pretty uneventful. When we hit mile 8 we saw people coming back towards us because there was a little turnaround point around mile 10; I overheard someone say "I was not ready for these hills!" My husband only walks inclines, he won't run them, so I wasn't terribly worried, but since his best friend had told us the course was flat I was a little...surprised.

Not even the biggest hill on course. 

Miles 8-12 were pretty boring other than watching an eagle soaring above the hill. We were going through what looked like an industrial area (but I think was actually campus for WMU? and included a "solar garden" full of solar panels"), and there were very few people around by that point. I took another gel at mile 9 because I felt hungry (weird) and otherwise played leapfrog with a couple other back of the packers. We did see course volunteers doing a cheer about "Running for the health of it" but from a distance, it sounded a lot like "Running for the alphabet" which was both confusing and funny. We hit a pit stop at mile 11 right before we left the industrial area, which is only notable because there was a HUUUUGE spider in the portopotty I picked...right on the INSIDE handle. That moved as I went to reach for the handle. I screamed. It was about the size of a dime...and that doesn't count the legs. It was black and white and I have no idea what kind it was. Needless to say, every portopotty we stopped at after that I did spider checks before I went in...and got teased for it, but man, no regrets.

It had warmed up quickly and by the time we got to the half point it was mid 60s and pretty sunny, but I was doing surprisingly well. We hit the half at 2:54 - I felt strong, he felt...okay. The fun part was there a bacon station around here, and not that I eat meat, but it sure smelled good. Plus, even for us stragglers, there was a ton of cheering folks. Really nice!

The next few miles I don't remember a ton of. I remember being very pleased with myself at mile 15 because this was now the furthest I'd run since Honolulu. The course here was very pretty, residential streets with plenty of ups and downs until then - at mile 15ish I took a third gel and we hit a nice stretch of downhills that seemed to go on forever (and had Keith nervous about what kind of uphill must be coming!) But at the end we hit a good flat stretch for a few miles after mile 16. I joked with Keith about my emotional breakdown at mile 16 in Chicago, but despite the fact that this was now longer and farther than I'd run in a while I felt good. A little warm but fine.

At mile 17 Keith started telling me this was hard. (He had just run the Oklahoma Memorial Marathon 2 weeks prior.) And at mile 18 he hit the wall - hard. He'd had heartburn since the start of the race and it had been fueling and hydrating really really hard - he was in some serious pain and it was weird because he never gets heartburn, whether he's running or not. He had a waffle and OJ for breakfast. We were guessing it was the OJ but whatever it was, he hurt, and it made it hard. He was ready to walk the rest of the marathon and while we could have done that and finished in course limits...I did push him.

The next 7 miles really blurred together. We crossed a timing mat at 19.65 miles and I joked with the timing person about the importance of knowing your 19.65 mile split. I pushed Keith to run/walk, we passed some of the smelliest pond/lake water EVER (eww - and near a side that said "Runners don't die...they just smell like they do"), we navigated what turned into a not-so-well-marked course (it was a paved park trail, and I'm sure it was easy to follow if you were earlier in the pack but with almost no one else around there were times I legitimately wondered if we were even on course...we did hop off course accidentally at one point and added .07 to our mileage, but mostly we did okay), we saw funny signs ("Humpty Dumpty had problems with walls too" right around mile 20), and we persevered.

Mile 21. He fakes it good for the camera, but I felt surprisingly great.

Mile 22 brought another really huge hill. Maybe not the biggest on course but by that point it felt like it. Keith had given up running entirely but I walk too slow and felt good running, so I would run a block ahead and then walk, he usually caught up almost right away. We went on for that for the rest of the race. Mile 25 had us back on the roads near the finish/start areas and we got to see a pair of cops roast a driver who wasn't paying attention (they tried to cut a runner off as the cops were guiding her around the was bad!)

Mile 25 was not flat. Going uphill in mile 25 sucks, but going downhill in mile 25 sucks too. Mile 25 pretty much just sucks. But then it was over, and suddenly Keith remembered how to run again - his finishing kick was way better than mine because I'd actually BEEN running the whole time. Jerk. Lol.

In the end it was a 6:11 finish. Running way at the back of the pack in a small marathon is a trip, and I give major props to people who do this regularly. Running in midpack or late midpack is way, way easier mentally and physically. But I did have fun and I did not slow him down. Bronchitis didn't rob me of -all- of my fitness and while I was sore after the race this might also be the fastest marathon recovery I've had yet. The race was beautiful and had a lot of awesome spectators. My only regret is forgetting to put sunblock on my cleavage, other than that 10/10 and would do again if given the chance. Just with more sunblock next time and less bronchitis.

Not the most flattering picture but I ran a marathon, shut up!


  1. Congrats on the finish! Funny that mile 25 sucks downhill or uphill - so true! Sorry to hear about the sunscreen (or lack thereof)! Congrats again!

    1. Thank you! :) I've just decided that mile 25 will never be fun, but the rest was!

  2. Is Keith going for a marathon in every state? :) Congrats to you guys!

    Aren't those tops the best? I wish they still sold them. Last year they had a different version with the same material. Maybe they will this year :)

    1. Yes he is. I'm not but kind of getting dragged along for the ride in some ways. That's why Alaska and Hawaii came up and why Michigan was on his radar. I'm trying to encourage him to do more training between marathons...he's capable of having an easier time with these, if he can get motivated.

      They are! I wish I had bought a few. I really, really should have.