Thursday, October 16, 2014

Be Aggressive, B-E Agressive: Omaha Marathon Race Report (9/21/14)

I decided to jump into the Omaha Marathon about a week before the race. I knew I wasn't super fit yet, having just started back training seriously in early August, but my half-marathon on 9/7/14 had gone better than expected and a low-key marathon just felt right. Especially when I was offered a highly discounted entry from the Race Director.

Besides, since moving to Nebraska about a year ago, I've taken it upon myself to be involved in as many different races here as my time allows. I'm at the age now where I don't have to be in top form for every race. I'm not too proud to use some races as workouts along the way to bigger goals. 

And the Omaha Marathon has a bad reputation as a brutally hilly and poorly managed race. I was excited to see for myself. Spoiler alert: neither of these things is actually true. 
I don't know who managed the OLD Omaha Marathon, but HITS Endurance (based in New York) took over the race 2 years ago, and this was the 2nd year of a new and relatively flat course. Overall, they did a nice job despite apparently marking the 10k course very long.

Omaha is a Sunday race so I went up for packet pickup on Saturday afternoon. Since it's only an hour drive from my house in Lincoln, this was worthwhile for me to know I had my race number before race morning and then go home to my own bed. I also stayed for the pasta dinner because it was free with my entry. It was a great way to soak up the pre-race atmosphere. The pasta dinner was right across the street from the packet pickup (which was at the TD Ameritrade Baseball Park) which made it convenient. I felt some good energy here from both the runners and the race staff and volunteers. I got my bland plate of pasta and chatted with a few "50 Staters" and other half and full marathon folks. 

A couple shots of the small (and outdoor) packet pickup and expo. Luckily the weather was great.

Having had major issues with nutrition/electrolytes in my first few marathons, I decided to place my own bottles out on the Omaha Marathon course on Saturday night. This was easy because the course runs through a few parks where there are picnic tables or fenceposts where I could set the bottles for an easy run-and-grab.
I placed 6 bottles out along the course containing my mix of half water/half gatorade and 2 Saltstick Caps dissolved in each bottle. Each bottle held 12 ounces and I ended up carrying them for maybe half a mile and drinking about half of each one (6 oz) before tossing it. 
This mix worked well for me and I think I finally figured out how much salt I need during a marathon. About 6 Saltstick Caps seems to do the trick and prevent me from losing my vision/seeing spots late in the race.

Race day kit laid out Saturday night.

I drove up from Lincoln, leaving just before 5am on race day. The weather on race morning was good. About 50 degrees with a cool breeze and clouds at the start. The sun would come out a few miles into the race, but I never felt the heat or sun affected my performance. 

I got to the start line and had no idea who I would be racing, which is part of the fun. I had several LRC Racing teammates running the half marathon so I wasn't surprised to see them. Although the picture in the Omaha World-Herald the next day makes it look our team captain Logan Watley and I have just discovered each other. That's me on the right in the orange hat.

In any case, the race started and I got out in a very relaxed 6 minute mile pace. It became clear by mile 2 that it would be a 2-man race between myself and Stephen VanGampleare. We chatted for several miles and it turns out Stephen went to Creighton a couple years back and now lives in Colorado Springs. 
We rolled through the first 10k taking turns leading the way and ticking off 5:40 something miles. I didn't feel like we were intentionally pushing the pace, and we definitely benefited from some downhill stretches in that first 10k. 

We were also fortunate to have Will Lindgren on the bike with us making sure any cars along the course could see us coming. He's also full of stories and jokes (and generally full of crap) as many of you Nebraska readers know.

The out-and-back course starts downtown then runs for a few miles through a sketchy neighborhood north of downtown. At mile 5 it then transitions into a nice park and onto Minne Lusa Boulevard which has some nice historic homes and seems to be a nice area. Miles 7 through 11 lead you onto the bike trail along the river which is scenic if you only look at the river and ignore the industrial area on your right.

The two of us continued to roll along at a comfortable pace on what is a slight downhill toward Carter Lake. At mile 11 you emerge from the bike trail onto the road at Carter Lake and run for 2 miles to the half marathon point where you turn around. 
We got there in 1:15:59, which was over a minute faster than I had planned. But I didn't go into panic mode. I still felt strong and had been getting my fluids down. 

The turnaround was a bit goofy as it was set up on the side of the road in some tall grass. Why would I come off the road into some grass to turn around? 
I was looking for a timing mat on the ground (to run across and prove that I had been there) but the timing system HITS uses has something like speakers suspended above you on a steel arch rather than a timing mat. Once the appropriate number of people yelled at me to cross under the arch, I did it correctly. 

We continued to run together through about 17 miles. Between miles 14 and 16 you start to see the slower marathoners coming at you on the trail, still in their first half of the race. The slow and steady climb from Carter Lake back up to the River started to slow me down slightly and my competitor was able to start to pull away. It happened in slow motion and wasn't a decisive move as I was hanging on just 10 yards behind him, then 20 or 30........and then the large hill at Energy Park and the Minne Lusa/Redick hill at mile 20 really sapped what little pop I had left in my legs. 

I knew at this point I had been way too aggressive early on, especially considering that you hit the bigger hills in the second half of this race. I went into survival mode and my struggle the last 5 miles was just to keep my legs moving and finish the race. I was certainly not in top condition. And it only took me about 18 miles of feeling great to figure this out! 

Thank you marathon for another cruel lesson.
After my last few miles of merely surviving, I was happy to enter the stadium and do a lap around the warning track before finishing. Although the gravel on the warning track was a bit slick, a stadium finish is a nice touch.
Congrats to Stephen VanGampleare on a great race and a PR! 

The post-race food was good. BBQ sandwiches, fruit, milk, etc. The nice thing about these smaller races is that you aren't herded around pre and post-race and you don't have to really wait in line for food. I enjoyed the sunny weather and hung out with a few friends for awhile to get my award. It turned out to be a plaque and a running armband/headphones. Which wasn't too bad of a prize. If only I had an i-phone it might work! 

The finishers medals were substantial and have an LED light that flashes, which is definitely unique.
Overall, I think this is now a well-run marathon. There was good traffic control, enough water stops, enough porta-potties, a relatively flat and visually varied course (downtown, residential, parks/bike trails, Carter Lake). 
Now all we need is more people to come out and run and more people to spectate!

I had terrible mile splits towards the end but I still ran a decent time. And I feel like for me there is no better workout for the marathon than running the marathon.
The great thing is that my legs didn't feel trashed when I finished. I felt better than I had after any other long race. I was worn out but not injured. I took two days off to recover and started training again. 

Now for the Des Moines Marathon on October 19th and the goal race this fall will be the Cal International Marathon (CIM) on December 7th.


Approx 36 oz---Half Gatorade/Half Water

3 Energy gels---Various brands (with caffeine)

6 Saltstick Caps 


5:58 (17:42 3 mile)
5:43 (29:08 5 mile)
11:17 (miles 8 and 9)
5:49 (58:00 10 mile)
5:52 (1:15:59 Half Marathon)
12:13 (miles 15 and 16)
12:13 (miles 18 and 19)
6:09 (1:58:30 20 mile)
13:24 (miles 23 and 24)
8:34 (last 1.2 miles)

2:40:19 Final Time---2nd Place