Sunday, September 13, 2015

Skagit Flats Marathon 2015 Pacer report

Why Run the Skagit Flats Marathon in 2015?

There were a number of logical and semi-logical reasons for me to embark on a 26.2 jaunt of the Skagit Flats Marathon in 2015:

  • I am following the 18/87 Pfitzinger schedule for Chicago. That has me running a 24 mile long run. Now if I ran 24 miles why would I not run 2.2 more miles?
  • Running as a pacer: I ran Skagit as the 1:45 half marathon pacer last year. That was fun. Pacing in general is a very positive experience - helping folks attain their running goals. This would be the first time I would pace a full marathon by myself. In the other pacing gigs, pacing responsibilities have been shared allowing for more redundancy. However, running the whole distance with your pace cohorts builds empathy and adds realism into the en-devour.
  • DNF in 2013 at mile 14: During the period of running struggles, I struggled to maintain 8:30 pace on that day and decided to call it quits. I've slowly settled a number of scores. This is one more that I needed to take care of.
  • I want Boston 2016 to be marathon #40: Right. Considering that I'm only at marathon #35... Hmmmm  

The Mission

I was assigned to pace the 3:30 marathon. That's flat 8 min/mile splits... This would be a part of a 91 mile week so I would not be tapering what-so-ever!

Race

The weather for race day was about as good as it has been for the race recently - 57F at the start and 64F at the finish. The course is open to the elements be it the sun or winds. It's just you, yourself and the Skagit flats (rural farmlands) (and of course your pacer if you choose to stick with him/her)... It's also a very small field with less than 200 marathon runners. There are some enthusiast folks (and high school kids) cheering you on in the water stops but you can't expect much else.

The drive to Burlington was beautiful - foggy, daylight breaking in and beautiful mountains and lakes. It reminded me for the millionth time why I love living here.

The race start was at the Burlington High School... I reached there at around 6:30 am and was greeted by an amazing sunrise. The last time I had been there was for the Ragnar Northwest passage relay. It was the second van transition point. The ambiance of the parking lot was quite different on that day, with all the team vans and the commodore. Today was much more mellow. On that day all of us were left admiring the beautiful sunset. Then once it was time to run our relay legs we were running along the Skagit flats on a clear star-filled night. Today it would be quite different!

I had sometime leading to the start chatting with some folks who would end up running with me for a bit. It's always great knowing more about the goals about folks in your pace group.

mile 1: 8:06 (1.02)

The pacer for the 1:45 half and I started off together. It made sense for us to stick with each other till the half-marathon turn-around. We had a group of about 10 or so...

mile 2: 7:55 (1.01)

The first couple of mile markers were long (and a number other markers would be as well) so I decided to try and aim for a mile split in the 7:50s. My goal was to get to the last 10k with a buffer of 1-1:30. This would guard against the course being long as well as give folks who needed a buffer for BQing an opportunity to do so.

mile 3: 7:34 (0.97)

8 min/mile felt slow and I was having to adjust my cadence to ensure I was not going out too fast. This was in a sense something to feel good about! There was a welcome cloud cover for the first 90 minutes...

mile 4: 8:14 (1.04)
mile 5: 7:59 (1.01)
mile 6: 7:50

The half marathon turn-around... With our pace group thinning out the conversation died out as well with folks getting more focused on the mission.

mile 7: 7:52
mile 8: 8:07 (1.03)
mile 9: 7:39 (0.97)

The course is pancake flat but the road surface along the Skagit flats is not perfect. It's a little coarse. There are a couple of areas where there are cambers on the road aka ITB crushers. This is one of the factors that makes the race a little difficult.

mile 10: 7:53 

For the first few water stops I'd accelerate a few steps before so as to not be a clog for folks behind me. The water stops were well organised and the volunteers were energetic!

mile 11: 7:52 
mile 12: 7:52

The turn-about especially in a rural course like this was a welcome boast. It was a mental milestone and provided self-support. Cheers between folks in front of us and then between us and those behind us. Just being able to see other human being in the same en-devour mattered...

mile 13: 7:53 (1.01)
mile 14: 7:57 (1.01)

A personal moment of reflection at mile 14. No I did not need to get a ride back to the start. In someways I've embarked on a journey of correcting many missed experiences in years past. I've gotten through a lot of them. I have a few left - RNR Las Vegas, Flying Pig, Houston, St Judes'...

mile 15: 7:58 (1.01)

Another good thing about the turn-around was that I kind of knew which mile markers would be short and which would be long...

mile 16:  7:56
mile 17: 7:54

By mile 17 my pack had dissipated. The sun was out and it was kind of getting hot. There were a number of folks walking and some who had cramped. I wonder if the GU energy drink had anything to do with that...

mile 18: 7:39 (0.97)
mile 19:  8:15 (1.04)
mile 20: 7:55

A high school water-stop where they had a sheet with names and numbers. The cheered for you by name!


mile 21: 7:56
mile 22: 8:07 (1.01)

I chatted with a local runner who was walking. I tried to inspire him to join me. He did for a bit but then stopped :(

mile 23: 8:23 (1.04)

The girl in this picture would be in front of me for most of the race before falling back. She remarked - "I don't know if I can make it". I was - "You can for sure!". She did marginally miss 3:30 but that was still a big BQ!

mile 24: 7:53 (0.96)
mile 25: 8:17 (1.01)

There were kids in Seahawk colors (it was the season opener) high-fiving runners :)

mile 26: 8:22 (1.02)

Two folks were run/walking. As they saw me they picked it up and followed me to the finish and then found the energy to pass me!

mile .22: 1:37 (0.19)

Results

Gun Time: 3:28:57.3
Chip Time: 3:28.49.2 @ 7:58 min/mile
OA: 36/172
Div: 16/26
Bib #: 17

Last-thoughts

This was the 38th running of the Skagit Flats. There are few races in the region with a longer history. It is incredibly well organized. For instance the food at the finish is great and it's constantly replenished even for the later runners. Being able to shower after the race in the high school allows you to embark on your drive clean... In summary, it's a good & fair option for a fast race

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