Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Kalamazoo Marathon Pace Report

I moved to Kalamazoo right out of college. In my two years there, I met quite a few good friends. Turns out, Kalamazoo decided to host its first Marathon on May 8th this year. What a perfect excuse to go back and visit some old friends while feeding my running addiction. I made plans to attend the event several months ago. A last minute work trip to Sweden required me to fly into town directly from Europe, and run the Marathon a day and a half later. Because I’d already had a busy race schedule in May. I decided it would be a smart move to take it easy and pace my good friend Ed in his first marathon.

Upon arrival, Ed started to insist that I participate in the "Pump & Run" competition. No, it’s not a sex act. It is a weightlifting-running combination competition. They put 80% of your weight (130 lbs for me) on a barbell, and every bench press repetition gets you two minutes off of your marathon time. You lift at the Expo the day before. The lifting area is manned by a bunch of Army Reserves. They grunt and yell encouraging words like "Lock it Up!" I was intimidated, but being a good sport, I went along with it for Ed's amusement. I was predicting one rep, but somehow managed six reps. The lowest total of all competitors!!!! The last rep was a struggle, I tell you. I was worried I was going to pop a blood vessel in my eye. This is the most weight I have ever bench pressed.
Look at the fear in my eyes.

"Lock it up!"

Kalamazoo is not a huge city. I found it absolutely amazing how many townsfolk were running in the marathon. Everywhere I went on Saturday, it was all the town was talking about. I have a feeling this race is here to stay. I personally had more than five friends running the race. Ed, the awesome friend he is, invited all of my old friends over for dinner on Saturday night for pasta, drinking, and catching-up. Sidewalk chalking was also on the menu, as the marathon actually ran right in front of Ed's house the next morning. It was a great catch-up with some old friends, however, I had to bite my tongue a bit when I was informed that two of my friends were going to attempt to run their 1stmarathon in Vibram 5-fingers. To each his own, I guess.

I miss these people

I woke up at 5:30 in the morning, surprisingly energized. I was expecting a gnarly case of jet-lag, but somehow felt great. Ed's A-Goal was to run 3:15 (a Boston Qualifier). His B-Goal was to finish. Good goals. Pre-race was uneventful. We said hello to a bunch of friends, and before we knew it, we were off. The starting area was crammed as both the half and full marathons started at the same time. We found ourselves standing around for a good couple of minutes before crossing the starting line, and had to deal with quite a crowd for the first several miles.
Bib-check, Beer $-Check, Energy chews-Check, Highland Scotch-Check

Chilling Pre-race. I'm the only one who slept well the night before.

As we ran through downtown at around mile 5, I had my crowning moment of the day. Depending on the race, pacers can have various responsibilities. One universal pacer responsibility is to keep your runner going in the right direction. This sounds like an easy task for a road marathon in a city that has crowds and signs everywhere. I pounced on the only opportunity to get lost during the race. As we were running through downtown, I was busy taking pictures and led Ed and my friend Matt onto the 1/2 marathon route, as the full route went off in the other direction. Luckily, Ed had some wits about him. He stopped, yelled at me, and ridiculed me for the next couple miles. Besides that little bump, the race was going quite well.
Behind the back action shot... as I ignored the turnoff for the marathon.

The 10 mile marker was likely a good 1/4 mile late, causing me to get confused, as I picked up the pace trying to gain back the two minutes that we somehow had lost. Luckily, Mile 11 was right on target. We came through the halfway point about a minute up on our goal time (1:36, I believe). This was a PR for Ed. I assured him all the cool kids are setting half marathon PR's while running a marathon (ref. Boston Marathon 2011).

Setting a 1/2 marathon PR. Always a good strategy.

Everything was smooth sailing until about mile 17. Here Ed started developing a side stitch. It went away around mile 19, but by that time a side stitch was the least of Ed's worries. I won't go into a lot of detail here, because Ed still had a great race and should be proud of his effort. I'll just say that he had a rough first introduction to "The Wall". There was some cramp stretching, some
walking, some cursing, some moaning. But there was also plenty of smiling, laughing, cursing, and joking. It became apparent around mile 20 that Ed's A-goal likely wasn't going to happen. I yelled at him at this point, as it meant that we likely wouldn't be able to hang out in Boston next spring.
Oh, the wall. Been here before. Note: this is no a dramatization. He really ran like that for over a mile.

The closest we came to trail running

I am not coordinated enough to be attempting this. Almost done.

It was a photo finish, but from the overpriced race photos, it looks like I got out leaned at the line. We finished just over 3:30. Pretty impressive for a first marathon from a late 30's
guy wearing compression socks.

I let Ed lay around in the grass moaning for about 45 minutes before insisting we go drink. Before heading to the beer garden, we enjoyed some post race Scotch. It was rough, but I'm contemplating making it a tradition. It seems so sophisticated. The beers were a bit weird, as they were from a local microbrewery who may want to work on their QC.

Post race beers!

After some relaxing, Ed and I decided to go track down our friend Danica and her mother who were running the marathon together. We found them about a mile from the finish. The Police Car of Doom was no more than 100 yards behind them. If it caught up to them, they'd be forced to get in and wouldn't be allowed to finish the race. Ed and I jumped in and kept them company and encouraged them to the finish. I don't care what anybody says, running a 6 1/2
hour marathon is just as hard as running a 3 hr marathon. They showed a lot of heart seeing it through to the end.

2 Generations of Hernandi finishing.

Check out the 5-fingers on the younger Hernandez. She proved me wrong.

Following a little more scotch, and a nice shower, I was headed back to Chicago for my flight home. The sorest part of my body was my arms. Before I left, Ed was already talking about the next marathon. I have no doubt he'll get that 3:15 goal. Maybe we'll see each other in Boston next spring after all.


  1. Great race report. Good job to all your friends. I agree a 6 1/2 hour marathon is still hard. I wish I could run 3:30...

  2. I always know that when I need a good laugh to read one of your posts. Love the caption under the picture "This is not a dramatization." Witty, heart-felt and overall a good read. Thanks.

  3. And, once again, the SJS50 shirt. Now I'm starting to wonder...