Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Loop Magic Comes to Erie

The Presque Isle Marathon at Erie is known for being fast, and has the highest % of BQs of any marathon. And with Looperstar PegLeg in the area, it has become a key Loop destination race. Originally I signed up for the Full, with a plan to get a BQ and join all the cool kids running Boston next year, and to be there for Peg when she got her first BQ, to complete the coaching journey we started last year.

Well, Peg got hurt and had to bail. And I got through the NYC lottery, and didn't think I could be ready in time anyway after coming back from my own downtime, so I switched to the half, so I could save myself for New York.

Here is the course map. One 'lap' around the peninsula is exactly 13.1 miles. Marathoners did it twice. It is a beautiful park with lots of trees for shade, and some nice beach views.

I came in Friday night, but first I took advantage of my 3.5 hour layover in Chicago, and had a quick dinner date to meet Rushourunner. She is a former Loopster who does her own blog now ( and I've been a fan for years, so it was great to meet in person and talk running, sports, books and beer. We are going to meet again in February for Ragnar Florida (still looking for more runners...).
Then it was on to Erie, and the start of the Pigfest, er, Loopfest. Seriously I ate like a pig all weekend. Started out with this when I arrived.
And later there were cinnamon rolls and eggs Benedict and pancakes and cheeseburgers...

Saturday the whole group hit the expo together and toured the course. It was quite breezy, but we hoped it would be better on Sunday (it was). So much fun to hang out with runners.


Later the whole group got together for an awesome Italian dinner and shared Loop love. I got to meet a few new Loopsters; BurgRunner and AppleSauce and Kribbit. So now I have three new friends. Plus it was great to see old friends that I hadn't seen since Flying Pig or Rehoboth or Marshall. Felt like one big happy family - the kind of family that gets along, laughs a lot, and cares about each other.

The six of us staying at Peg's house laid out our flat runners and tried to sleep a little before the 3:30AM wake up call.

We eventually found each other in the dark before the 7AM marathon start. We got to wish our 4 marathoners good luck, and then get ready for the 7:30 Pikermi.

I came into this race feeling good and ready for a fast one. I hadn't run a half under 1:40 in over two years, so I was looking forward to seeing how close I was to my 2011/2012 form, when I ran six halves in the 1:33-1:35 range. My somewhat conservative goal was sub 7:30 pace, or sub 1:38. But I felt I had a chance to get close to 1:35, and my over-50 PR of 1:34:46 if all went well.

RunnerGuyMark had a sub 1:35 goal, so I thought maybe I could chase him too. But I figured he would probably be ahead of me. I wanted to start conservative around 7:30-7:45 and negative split.

The start had pace signs for 7 minute, 8 minute, 9 minute, etc, and people lined up properly! It was very smooth with no dodging or weaving, and I comfortably locked in to pace and followed a group of runners at the same speed. Mile 1 was 7:28.

The course was virtually flat, but it seemed like it was downhill more often than not. The weather was perfect, the trees were pretty, and we were just cruising along. Miles 2 and 3 were 7:23 and 7:20. It wasn't easy. I was working, comfortably. But it wasn't too stressful either. We hit the turn around where I saw Mark about 30-40 seconds ahead of me. Well, he's moving right along, but who knows. Maybe he'll come back to me.

At this point a guy passed me and I decided to go with him. I picked up the pace and followed him as we started picking people off. Now I was working. It felt like a race, and I started to wonder how fast I could push it since there was still 9-10 miles left! Miles 4-6 were 7:08, 7:13, 7:10. Pretty close to 10K pace! I was focused and running hard and just hoped my body could keep it up. I had faith in my endurance that I had built up.

I tried to spot Mark's red shirt up ahead for the rest of the race, but never saw him again. But plenty of other red shirts gave me people to chase! In mile 7 I started to tire a bit, and thought I needed to dial it back a little since there was so far still to go. Still pushing, but kind of maintaining. 7 and 8 were 7:17 and 7:19.
By now I knew sub 1:38 would happen and I was close to 1:35 pace if I could hang on. But I was slowing and nervous. We started to pass the slow marathoners and catching and passing people did help with the motivation. Mile 9 I was near 7:30 pace and wondering if I could just keep it sub-8 the rest of the way. Came through in 7:26. Several people passed me.

And that kind of pissed me off. I'm used to doing the passing. I decided to latch on to them for a while, and picked it up. And my mojo returned. Within a mile I had re-passed a couple guys and was back in racing mode. Mile ten was 7:14, and with only 3 to go, I could accept more discomfort. I kept my foot on the gas and caught some more guys. Miles 11 and 12 were 7:14 and 7:15.

I was hurting now. Like you are supposed to hurt in a race. In the last mile my quads started to stiffen, my form went to hell, my shoulders went up, and the grimace came on board. Probably because I was pushing even harder. Mile 13 was the fastest of the day at 7:02.
We turned for the finish with about 1/4 mile to go, so it was time to give it all up. The finish took forever to appear, but finally I could hear the cheers of Peg and Kribbit and saw the finish. And then my body said "I'm done" and I started to dry heave 10 yards from the finish. Luckily nothing came up and I crossed the line and heaved some more. I was sure I was about to leave a pukey mess in the finish chute, but I lucked out. I could stop and recover and breathe, and eventually returned to normalcy. The last .12 was 6:02 pace.

Time to hurl

Final time: 1:35:14 (7:15 pace) It was good for 4th in my AG, 65th overall of about 1000. And I was ecstatic!


I tried to jog a little but my calves were spasming and my quads were rocks, so Mark and I walked over to mile 19 to see JJ and Roger go by. Then we met up with Peg and planned our MJ strategy. Mark would take her from 19 to 22 and then I would pick her up after that. Which meant I basically had to make my way back the whole last 4+ miles. But after some rest and water that didn't sound too bad. I needed more miles anyway...

Running the last 4+ miles with MJ was so much fun. We all know those last marathon miles are tough, and I was happy to distract her, keep her motivated and share in the BQ glory. She was on track when we started, with a good buffer. We ran about ten minute pace for a few miles, a little slower after that, but she never walked or stopped. My legs worked again, and it felt good to be out there on the course, minus the suffering.

More loopsters showed up in the last few miles, until with 1/4 mile to go she had 6 "younger" guys surrounding her. An awesome entourage of encouragement! It was the highlight of the weekend as she closed in on her BQ and we all celebrated Loop camaraderie. I sprinted ahead at the end to alert the people at the finish, and there was much rejoicing.

Then we all hung out in the beautiful sunny morning, ate from the ample food buffet, and checked the results and shared stories.
 As we headed out, we took a dip in Lake Erie.
lake 3
lake erie
Later there was celebrating and eating and drinking and football and it was just the usual wonderful Loopfest shenanigans. Can't wait for the next one.

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