Friday, October 21, 2016

2016 Detroit Free Press Marathon

A couple of years ago my uncle, who lives about 30 minutes from Detroit, invited me to come run the Detroit marathon and stay with them. It wasn't going to work for me that year and it didn't work out the next year. But this year, everything came together and I was able to put it on my schedule as the final long run in a build up to the 2016 Monumental Marathon.

Planning started about 8 weeks ago. The marathon begins in Detroit and crosses into Canada for a few miles. That being the case you need official credentials to cross the border. I haven't been out of the country in years and so didn't have any of the various options. We decided to go ahead and just get full passports in case we decided we wanted to fly to France for dinner some evening. While the State department recommends 6 week lead time to get your passport we actually received ours in about 2 weeks. It was a pretty simple process.

The race was scheduled for 7:00 AM Sunday, October 16th, 2016. We headed to Detroit about 9:00 AM Saturday morning and arrived to the COBO center for packet pickup at about 1:00 PM. There is good parking right at the center's parking garage for $10.00. We don't know the area at all so it was 100% worth the price. We parked and were in and out of packet pickup and the expo in about 45 minutes.

My aunt and uncle not only provided a place for us to stay but provided us with the most important meals of the weekend. Pre-race and post-race dinner. A Sunday morning marathon means a Saturday evening vigil mass. So, we went to mass, ate dinner and watched some collage football before turning in around 9:00 PM for a 4:00 AM wake up.

We headed downtown about 5:00 AM for a 7:00 AM start. We were parked by 5:30 AM in a little 20 space parking lot about a half mile from the start line. All of the usual pre-race stuff; you know, hit the port-a-pot, take a gel and load up in the corral.

At 7:00 AM it was 66* and 83% humidity, making for a warm and humid day in Detroit. This race was taking the place of a 24 mile "moderate paced" run in my training plan. That being the case, my goals for the race were: First, run a strong pace between 6:50 and 7:00 miles. Second, run a very controlled first mile no faster than 7:00. Third, negative split the race.

My wife got this picture right before I headed to the corral.


1st 5k -- 6:51 (5k in 21:20 @ 6:51)
7:00 AM made for a predawn start which was just fine with me and the race started right on time as you would expect at a large race. They started the countdown, I stripped off my shirt, tossed it to the side and started moving up. Knowing that I wanted to be at 7:00 minute mile or slower for the first mile I kept my eye on the 3:05 pace group and tried to not get ahead of them. First mile was 7:01, sweet.

In mile 2 is a climb up to the ambassador bridge to cross the Detroit river into Canada. This is a nice grind and because I was holding my pace back and running much slower than my goal marathon pace I was running really strong and just passing people. This was a great confidence boost and I remember thinking that I needed to keep it in check and not blow a negative split. Once on the climb to the bridge and across the bridge there is a lot of border patrol. You could tell that they were checking bibs and doing their jobs but they were also being great marathon spectators and giving encouragement to the runners.

5k - 10k -- 6:52 (5k in 21:18 @ 6:57)
Now fully inside of Canada, we turn back north and head toward Riverside Drive. I've never been to Canada and it was basically just what I expected. The only difference I could see from the USA was that the speed limit signs were in kilometers. We ran along riverside for a couple of miles and made our way to the Detroit Windsor Tunnel.

10k - 15k -- 6:53 (5k in 21:38 @ 6:57)
If you weren't aware this is an underwater tunnel that runs for about a mile. I always do manual laps on my Garmin in a race so losing satellites wasn't an issue for me. Also, when a Garmin does lose satellites it draws a straight line from its last signal to the spot were it regains communication. The tunnel just happens to be a straight line so it even was able to stay on the correct distance once we climbed out of the tunnel. Took a gel right at 45 minutes.

Returning to the USA, at about the 8 mile mark, was great. There were crowds, music, and where I was they were even calling the names of the runners. A great boost of energy and motivation was the result. Again, I had to check myself and keep my pace under control. This is not a race for me. I needed to keep the pace at 6:50 or slower to ensure that I didn't need extended recovery and could return to my training for the Monumental. A look at my watch here had my over all pace at about 6:53 so not a whole lot of room to play with particularly if I'm going to negative split the race.

The course between the return to the USA and the half mark runs through downtown Detroit. I was hoping to catch my family down here. Sure enough, right around the 12 mile mark I hear Hannah. I am pretty much by myself here working between groups. Catching 1, leaving it and catching another. I easily make my way over to the left hand side of the road for a high-five from Hannah.



Getting a boost from a "Hannah High Five"
15k - 20k -- 6:51 (5k in 21:01 @ 6:45)
The course heads away from downtown and through some old but nice urban neighborhoods. The pace is picking up and I am confident that I will be able to hold and quicken the pace in the second half. At about the 15 mile mark there is a group handing out little 6 oz bottles of water. I grab 1 and it fits nicely in my hand and the mouth of the bottle makes drinking on the run very easy. I think I have a new drinking strategy for marathons and I need to find where I can buy these bottles. 

20k  - 25k -- 6:50 (5k in 20:59 @ 6:45)
Not much to report on this part of the course except that I was still feeling strong and was now fairly confident in hitting 3 hours and a negative split relatively comfortably. Being able to to drink from the bottle as opposed to dixie cups made drinking much easier. I took another gel right at 100 minutes.

25k - 30k -- 6:50 (5k in 21:11 @ 6:49)
Heading out to and on Belle Island there was a noticeable headwind and I had to work to keep the pace where I was. I wasn't going to let a little headwind derail my goal so I just dug in and did the work. I kept a close eye on my watch and if the pace started to drop I refocused.

30k - 35k -- 6:50 (5k in 21:27 @ 6:54)
The pace was dropping a bit so I knew that the work was beginning. It would take focus from here to the finish to meet my primary goals but I felt pretty strong and just knew that I had to put my head down and get to work. No problem, that's my draw to the marathon. It is hard physical work and I relish it.

35k - 40k -- 6:50 (5k in 20:56 @ 6:44/mile)
A couple of things helped here. I was ready for it to get difficult and mentally prepared for when it did. I knew there was just a 5k plus a little extra left so I was with in 25 minutes of this thing being over. A younger runner passed me. I don't like being passed especially late in a marathon. That's a point of pride for me. I get strong as people around me are falling off. I drop other runners late in the marathon, not the other way around. So when he passed me I made the decision to go with him. I stayed within striking distance through the run along the Detroit river back into downtown.

40k - the finish
Now moving back downtown there were 3 hills to go over. Again, I was running about 35 seconds under goal pace so the hills didn't cause me much trouble. I caught and passed the guy that passed me back along the river and then set my sight on 1 more runner and caught and passed him as well. I  really took the pace down here and ran 6:44 in for mile 25-26.

The course measured 26.45 my Garmin, on the strava route, and on the online map used by the marathon itself. That's fine. I've got no issue with that. It's the course and it's certified. There are actually a lot of turns. All of these turns mean that errors in running the tangents could add up quickly explaining the extra distance on my watch. Additionally, since online mapping uses center-lines for measurements all of the turns mean that the tangents are lost and you are going to get a long measurement from those as well. All that being said, I let completely loose over the last half mile running at a 5:33 pace.

Marathon #14 complete!
I was very pleased with my execution of this race. Coming at the end of a training cycle before tapering and further at the end of a peak mileage week as the race itself capped a 100 mile week, I felt very strong throughout the race and gained confidence in my goal of a 2:47:xx time at the Monumental on November 5th.

1 comment:

Brian Vinson said...

Sounds like you ran a really smart race and gritted it out when you needed to. I felt like I was there and got fired up for running a marathon again.