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2011 Lincoln Marathon (by Mike McGinn) May 12, 2011

Posted by triracers in Race Reports.

Sorry, this is really self involved.  For those who enjoy race reports, you might enjoy this, otherwise this is probably pretty boring for you.

Quick and Dirty:


Medal: Simple, Gold, Solid.  Picture of Abe Lincoln and Memorial Stadium on it.  Ribbon is strung through the actual medal, not some crappy ring attached to the medal.

Shirt:  Also Simple.  White tech shirt with red mesh on side.  Lincoln Marathon Logo on front, some saying on back.  No sponsors on it.

Course:  Fairly flat with a couple rolling hills.  1st Half:  Great crowd support and great water/Gatorade stops with plenty of support and cups with straws!!!  2nd half:  Also flat with a slight up and down around 18/20.  Complete opposite in terms of crowd support, still great volunteers.


I had a very pessimistic attitude going into this marathon.  I was running it alone and my training was far from my expectations.   I could go all the way back until mid March with my missed expectations on my runs, but I would say the most telling run occurred two weeks prior to Lincoln.  It was my last 20 miler and it was nothing short of depressing.  The first 12 went smooth enough, considering the cold, blustery conditions.  The glass was half full at the start of this day and at least it wasn’t raining, (right Dave)?  The group was light this week as many were in Boston and Dave and I were left to fend for ourselves.  Dave and I kept good spirits, well..  until we hit 12 miles and then decided to turn around.  At this point, the self esteem glass sprang a leak.  It was at the turnaround that we started heading back into a WNW wind for the last 8 miles.  This trek went on forever, and the wind only got stronger the longer we pushed on.  These last 8 miles silenced Dave and me, humbling us by its force.  It was a very defeating run.  I’ve never been good going into the wind, feeling it hinders me more than others.  On the flipside, I do feel like I’m better than most going with the wind.  But seriously, when am I ever going to have to run half a race into a 20 mph headwind?[2]

Saturday Expo:

I left Becka, Ava and my in-laws at the hotel and headed to the expo.  This was my first experience in Lincoln, and fully expecting the smell of sulfur and brimstone as I entered town, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Lincoln (at least by the campus) is not unlike one of my favorite cities, Iowa City.  Complete streets, a campus fully integrated into the surrounding city.  Lincoln even had down the less positive aspects like there’s never anywhere to park and pedestrians dart out into traffic and look at you in disgust for obeying regular traffic laws.  Although there’s nothing wrong with the city, every traffic light annoys me and I can’t wait to get out of town.  I quickly get to the expo and pick up my packet and shirt.  Interesting aspect of the expo is you get shirt you requested, no regretsy’s.  However, they do have a “shirt exchange” so if you do get a shirt that doesn’t fit, you can hopefully exchange it for something else.  Unfortunately, most people know their shirt size, it’s the shirt manufacturers that don’t know how to make shirts.  This year, the shirts were apparently modeled with a giant marshmallow with two sticks coming out of it as this thing has no shoulders.  Of course, there’s no XL so I’m stuck with my ill fitting large, soon to be perfectly fitting sleeveless version.  I leave the expo as it is only average and I have no desire (er.. permission?)  to buy any more exercise clothes.  The best thing about this expo is the pace bands.  They have pace bands for each pace group they’re doing tailored to the course per mile.  For example, they start you out slow and then based on hills and when you’ll start to fatigue, they slow you down and speed you up.  Genius.  Also, on the website, they have a guide on how to run a marathon on how you should pace in different legs of the race.  Definitely worth a read.  I can’t believe I’ve never heard about that before, but it helped solidify my strategy for marathons from this point forward.

I start to drive the course and already know that I’m going to be battling a NW wind in the morning and I look for my trouble spots.  The first half is a loop where we run East/South until around mile 6 where I realize I’m going to have some trouble as this is a fairly open bike path off of a highway right into the wind.  We’ll head west until mile 8 or 9 and then back north until mile 13.  The north route seems to have some good city/tree cover and I’m not too concerned.  The second half is an out and back; six and  half with the wind, 6.5 right into the wind.  This is probably going to be the hardest end to a marathon I’m ever going to face and realize the importance of hydrating/ energy conservation at the beginning.  The course reminds me a lot of Rochester, my least favorite marathon.  It runs with the half marathoners the entire first half and then it’s a quiet and lonely second half out a back. B-O-R-I-N-G.

I get back to the hotel and we decide on Valentino’s for supper.  If you’ve never been to one, it’s incredible, and I’m not talking about the food so much.  It’s an Italian all you can eat buffet.  Absolutely perfect pre-marathon, plus my father in law, “Double Meat” Bill Welch loves the freedom to choose aspect of the buffet, so we all win.  Pre-marathon, I’m all about volume.

Race Day:

I was extremely nervous going into race day.  Ava has never slept for more than two hours in her pack in play so I was expecting to get maybe one hour of good sleep, but, amazingly, she slept through the entire night.  I had a dream that I had run a 2:50 marathon and qualified for Boston.  Of course, I rode my bike in my dream, and that’s why I qualified.  Seriously, I can’t even dream myself fast.  I got dressed and Becka dropped  me off at the start.  I’m significantly early, so I walk around and try to take in the atmosphere.  I’m dressed in warm up pants and pullover, which cleverly hides my obnoxious Hawkeye jersey which I’m convinced will lead to riots as soon as someone sees it.  I don’t know why I was expecting this, but I was fully prepared to fight during this marathon.  Around 15 minutes until start I lose my warm up gear and get headed to the start.   Surprisingly, I don’t hear any jeers or boos.  Actually, no one pays any attention to me.

I’m lined up next to the 3:20 and 3:15 pacers.  My goal is to stay with the 3:20 pacer through the first half and then, if I’m feeling good, see if I can add a little more space during the second half.  My 3:20 pacer spots a friend in the crowds and says hi.  The person he’s talking to is a tall, slender man and they begin talking about goals.  Slim Jim tells the 3:20 pacer they’re going to start out around a 7:30 pace and try to be around a 3:20 pace for the first half and then “they’re going to track down the 3:15 group in the second half.”  This immediately irks me, like the 3:20 is just so easy to get, so they might as well lay the hammer down and pass the 3:15’s while they’re at it.  We immediately become enemies.  I look forward to passing this guy around mile 23 after he’s overexerted himself.

The race starts with a cannon blast (awesome) and we’re off.  Then we stop.  They have a funneled start to allow for better separation along the course.  A novel idea, but not sure if it really worked as people can quickly make up a few seconds along a 13.1/26.2 mile route.  The morning is cool and only feels slightly breezy, but right now, I’m going with the wind.  I start off slow, as I should, but I notice I’m still about :30 seconds ahead of pace already in the first mile.  I aim to keep my HR around 160-165 for the first half.  The first couple miles go by smoothly and I maintain an aggregate :30 second lead.  Mile three is the first water stop and my first experience with cups with lids and a straw on a race course.   I’m not thirsty but A – I’ve raced enough to know that it’s not about when you’re thirsty, drink anyway, and B – I’m super excited to drink from a straw.  I grab a water and am absolutely floored about the ease of drinking out of a straw while running.  I didn’t slow down hardly at all and able to consume nearly all my water in the cup.  I don’t want to put it down.  This is literally one of the greatest racing moments of my life and I’m only three miles in.  I could write three pages solely on cups with lids.  Literally, greatest thing ever.  It probably saves me about 7:00 minutes on the day.  Amazing.  Call me and we talk about this more.  I finally decide to discard my cup and hit my first garbage can.  [1/1].  I cruise along comfortably, dodging people and admiring the old neighborhoods of Lincoln.  It reminds a lot of Waveland or South of Grand in Des Moines.  Large, old estates that have been there for years.  Lots of people in their yards still in their sweatpants, sipping coffee and cheering for the runners as they go by.

Around mile five I’m surprised as the 3:20 pace group is upon me and I realize that I’m now around what my aggregate pace should be.  I decide to up my HR to 170 and hope I hang on for the whole race.  I stay with the 3:20 group and even get a little bit ahead of them at times.  At mile 6 we make the turn that brings us into the wind and I try to find a comfortable niche in the pace group along the crowded bike path.  Running with this group reminds me of the swim and bike portions of a triathlon.  It reminds of the swim because I feel like I could close my eyes and run by touch alone because it’s so crowded.  Often times during a swim, I have no idea where I’m going or where I am.  I just assume that if 8 other people are going there, it’s probably the right direction.  It reminds of the bike because of the great benefits of drafting.  Now, I realize in USAT sanctioned events, drafting off an individual is not legal.  What is legal is 30 seconds to complete a pass and once you’ve completed a pass, the “pass-ee” must fall back 3 or so bike lengths.  It’s all arbitrary and dumb, but you get the point – don’t camp on somebody’s heels.  This is similar to what we’re doing, bouncing around, jockeying back and forth in position, all trading places in position, but helping each other nonetheless as we don’t have to battle the wind head on alone, which is significant at this point.  I cruise along with this group for three miles until we hit a water stop and everyone slows down some.  I drink fast and separate from the group, hitting my second garbage can [2/2].  We then turn and head north up a hill and I see the 1:40 half marathoners and I decide to pace with them for a while.  Miles 10-12 go by in a blur and soon we’re nearing downtown Lincoln.  I hit a water stop along here and grab a cup that doesn’t have a lid.  I nearly panic but realize this is something I can handle.  I talk myself down as best I can and tell myself to relax.  I calmly, yet slowly bend the cup and try to sip.  This is like going back in time for me.. or my parent’s house.  It’s a whole new world.  I try drinking, but water splashes everywhere.  It’s on my shirt, it’s in my nose.  I probably only drink about 25% of what was in the cup.  I still manage to throw the cup in the garbage.  [3/3]  The large commercial buildings provide a good shield to redirect the wind right into our faces and I’m starting to feel the strain.  This part is more wide open road and it’s harder to draft off someone.   I notice my heart rate creeping up and know that the second half is going to be a struggle.  The 1:40 pacer is awesome.  She is yelling and cheering on her constituent’s nonstop.  I’m quite impressed.  Unfortunately, at about 12.9 they make a turn towards Memorial Stadium (EW!) and I keep going.

It feels like I missed a turn and everyone else knew where they were going as 80% of the racers left me.  I head down the bike path with a solid NW wind at my back.  I push my HR to 175 and hope I can ride this out to the end.  My thinking is that at 175 with the wind I can build up enough time that running against the wind won’t be that bad.  Miles 14, 15, 16, 17 tick by and I consistently have :30 seconds aggregate ahead of schedule.  It feels like I should have more, but the pace is built to build a lead at this point because this is where your body is most efficient.  Mile 18 has a slight uphill and then back downhill into a park by a lake.  I can really feel the wind at my back going through the park and know I’m going to have some trouble on my way back.  It’s here where I finally catch up to my nemesis who’s “going to go catch the 3:15’s.”  I pass him swiftly, but it’s bittersweet as I realize the only reason he’s slowed down is because he’s helping another runner reach her goal and he is actually fine.

I hit the turnaround shortly past mile 19 and realize I have a good 20 seconds on the 3:20 pace group.  I turn into the wind kicking off the lake with full gusto and nearly choke.  It is absolutely brutal[3].    Within a mile, the 3:20 pace group passes me and I can’t even pretend to hang on.   I come out of the park somewhere around mile 21 and take a Rocktane, praying to God that I am just lacking a few needed calories and some caffeine.  The gel sticks to my mouth like I ate a jar of peanut butter.  I can barely breathe.  Fortunately, there’s water ahead.  With lids.  [4/4]  As I’m leaving the park and heading down the hill, I start to feel my legs kick back in and I begrudgingly head home.  I draft like I’m biking, coming up right on the heels of runners and then passing at the last second.  After I pass one girl I notice a peculiar shadow latch on to mine.  It seems I garnered a little leach.   I let her hang on for a couple minutes without overreacting and then we hit another water stop. [5/5] We get switched around in the confusion and I soon find myself on her heels.  I give her a taste of her own medicine.  I follow close for two minutes so she can see my shadow.  After two minutes I pass and offer a truce.  I tell her If we do this together, we can both benefit.  Let’s run two minute splits all the way home.  I take my next round.  I can see the 3:20 pacer ahead, about :15 seconds out of our reach.  We push each other to finish strong, each one giving it their all for 2:00 minutes each time they lead.  Granted, she’s benefiting from this much more than I am as she is about 4’ 10” and probably 120 lbs. but I’m getting some benefit regardless.  Why isn’t there some 6’8” female that weighs in around 200 that can also clock a 3:20 marathon?  We do this for the next 3 miles, keeping a steady pace but never getting closer than :20 seconds behind the time on my pace band .  Fortunately, the final two miles are at 7:47 and 7:58, enough for us to make up some room if we can push hard in the end.

Around mile 25 I am starting to lose steam.  I’ve taken my last Rocktane, but it hasn’t helped much.  I notice that on my shifts my friend is either beside me or in front.  I realize she’s ready to take off.  I finally introduce myself and ask her name.  Tammy.  She’s already BQ’d, this one just gets her in the door for sure, as she’ll surely have a 3:20 and a well deserved Boston acceptance.  Today is also her new PR.  In the final mile, she has a little more steam and tries to track down the last few runners.  I try to keep her in my sights and pray to God I’m running hard enough to lock in under 3:20.  I turn the corner into Memorial Stadium and run onto the field and my watch shows I have :20 seconds to lock this in.  I sprint with all that is left in the tank and finish in 3:19:54, six seconds under my Gooder goal[4].


Overall, this race was a very good experience.  I set a new PR, I shot at least 5/5, I probably was closer to 8/8, as I don’t remember missing a single basket (in the wind, no less!) the medal was decent, the crowd support was awesome (for the half marathon) for what I thought of a fairly small race and the people of Lincoln were great all around.  I was expecting obnoxious Nebraska Fans to boo me or maybe for this to be my first “full contact” marathon, but I heard plenty of “Go Hawkeyes!” the whole time.  The only negative comment was “I don’t know too much about that shirt you’re wearing” said to me by a half marathoner in an Iowa State shirt.  Finishing on the 50 of the memorial stadium was anti climatic for me.  Cups with straws are the greatest thing to happen to racing.  Ever.  This is better than chip timing, gel, running shoes and Gatorade combined.  Seriously, how is Lincoln the only race to do this?  This alone moves Lincoln to the top 5 in marathons alone.  Today I am the sorest I’ve ever been, but I deserve it.  I set a new PR on a training calendar that is way below par, maxing out with a 40 mile week.  Granted I swim and bike, but you just can’t replace running.  If you feel the need to chase me today or tomorrow, just corral me near some stairs as these are the equivalent of brick walls.  Anyway, I had a great time and this is marathon is one of the few I’d consider doing again.

Oh Yeah

Best Shirt I saw:  Iowa T Shirt that said “Get used to seeing Hawks in your end zone”

Saw only one guy in Vibrams.  He had great form in the beginning of the race… ran into him again near the finish of the half and he was “less than perfect” in form.


[1] Nobody reads the preface.   Don’t feel bad if you skip this part.  Actually, if you followed the footnote, you’re probably going to read the preface, so this note is essentially worthless.

[2] This is called foreshadowing

[3] Check the preface, dummy.

[4] Good Goal – 3:30, Gooder Goal – 3:20, Goodest Goal 3:15



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