It was a Sunday marathon 3.5 hrs away so we got to town the day before and spent the night. The first order of business was packet pickup. My first complaint about the race is that the expo was in way too small of a space. Then when I got to the table to get my packet they handed me a medium shirt. I don't wear a medium, I wear a small. They couldn't do anything about it there but told me to take my shirt to the race and I could exchange it after if there were any smalls left. Lucky me and thanks to my daughter who went to get it for me, I ended up with the last one.
We left the expo as quickly as possible because of the over-crowding. We spent the rest of the afternoon driving around looking for spectator areas so my wife would be acquainted with the area and able get to as many spots as possible. I didn't print out the course map or spectator maps because I figured I would just pick some up at the expo. My second complaint, they had no copies of the maps, I'm sorry that just doesn't make sense to me. But I will say, after driving the area, Fox Valley is awesome! Honestly, I could move there. It is just a really neat place.
We did something at this race we've never done before, we ate with other participants and their families by participating in the "Dine and Dash." We reserved a seat with 10 other people plus two reps from the marathon at a local restaurant Saturday night. We had a lot of fun and met some great people. In particular, I was very impressed with a woman in the 65-69 age group who only started running 3 years ago, ran her first marathon about a month ago and was running the full here as well. She was trying to qualify for Boston both times. I don't care who you are or how good of shape you are in, that is impressive.
A couple of the other participants told my wife about 3rd Street in Geneva, the town we were in at the restaurant. 3rd street has a couple of really good chocolate and ice cream places. So we strolled down 3rd Street after dinner. It was a really cool area with a lot going on. I even bumped into and met the race director in one of the shops. One place had some delicious looking gelato. Unfortunately, I couldn't have any because that would have been a sure way to derail my run the next morning. My wife and daughter on the other hand really enjoyed 3rd street. I mean they really enjoyed it.
The hotel was about a 20 minute drive from the start line. We got up, ready and left in plenty of time. Traffic was pretty heavy in St. Charles, the town the race started and finished in but everything went pretty smooth and we found a parking spot with not much trouble. I would have liked to have seen some kind of traffic direction for parking and would be one suggestion I would make to improve the experience at this race. As it was we were on our own and luckily didn't have any trouble.
I had planned on running a pace that would leave me finishing in 3 hours and 25 minutes. A full 30 minutes off of my PR. At the last minute, my daughter Hannah said, "It'd be cool if you BQ'ed without even really trying." I couldn't resist so I lined up with the 3:15 (BQ for my age group) pace group. Mike from marathonpacing.com was unbelievably accurate. I am talking about nailing the splits with in mere seconds. Looking at the results, his group ended up finishing with an overall pace of 7:26 1 second off the goal of 7:27.
|Hannah talked me in to the 3:15 pace group|
There was a lot of great crowd support and the course was very scenic. The biggest problem I had was that the great majority of the race was on a narrow path and I was in a big pace group. I got elbowed, stepped on and when you are that close to profuse sweaters engaged in activity that makes them sweat even more you are bound to get wet and I did. Had I been racing I wouldn't have had any of these problems so I will overlook them.
|The 3:15 pace group was big and the path was narrow. This picture gives a little insight into the close quarters were were running in.|
The course was a loop that followed a river making it very spectator friendly. Spectators, including my wife and daughter, could easily follow the course by following the river and since it was a narrow loop they were able to get to several places to watch the runners. So I got to see my family 4 or 5 times which was great. This is a big positive in my opinion.
Throughout the run I keep being surprised at how comfortable I was. It wasn't long before I started to change my strategy. I decided that if I was still this comfortable at 20 miles I would make this a fast finish run. This is an important kind of training for me since my legs have failed me late in my last 2 marathons causing me to miss my goal by 30 seconds or less. If I accomplish nothing more in my goal race this year I hope that it is to maintain my pace in the closing miles. 20 miles came and I felt really good so I dropped my pace down to near my goal for the Monumental Marathon to finish out the run giving my legs good practice of running at goal pace when fatigued.
|Broken away from the pace group with room to run!|
I ended up finishing 3:10:28. 3:09:59 is the cut off time for early registration for Boston for my age group and my only regret is being that close to early registration and not getting it. In the end this regret is merely a vanity since I have no intention of returning to Boston in 2015 and I know that I wasn't racing this marathon and if I had been I would have not only made early registration but met day 1 qualifying standards.
|Nothing like a little road kill right at the finish line. I don't care if it is a Grampa in the half-marathon running the finishing .1 mile with his granddaughter. Road kill is road kill. :)|
Post race we tried to hang around the finishing area but like the expo it was way under-sized. This is overall a great race in a great area on a really cool course. It is only in its 3rd or 4th year and I believe it will continue to grow. They would do well to deal with these issues and open it up. It would make the experience even better.
All things considered I really enjoyed this race and got to experience a really neat community in the Fox Valley area. I got more true marathon experience under my belt and I got a great confidence boost not only from the fast finish of this run but the quick recovery. A mere 3 days after this marathon I ran a solid long run of 17 miles at a 7:30 pace. I couldn't be more pleased than I am with that. My eyes are now squarely fixed on November 2nd and the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon.
We finished the day with Mass at a beautiful church , lunch at Giordano's and a 3 and a half hour drive home.
|Sts Peter and Paul, Naperville IL|
|If you can't eat Chicago style pizza after a marathon, I don't know when you can. This was delicious.|