The first main stop on our 2019 camping trip out West (which Trevor is calling our Ultramarathon Sufferfest Extravaganza) was the beautiful Charlevoix Marathon along the shores of lake Michigan.
This was my 58th marathon, 45th state, and 4th fastest marathon.
The day went better than I expected and I managed to squeak out a BQ and 1st place in my age group.
Let me tell you all about it . . .
The 13th annual Charlevoix Marathon was held on Saturday, June 22nd, 2019. They also hosted a half marathon, 10k and 5k the same day.
Packet pick up was available on Friday afternoon and early race morning. The packet pick up and race finishing area was held at Bridge Park in historic downtown Charlevoix, adjacent to the famous draw bridge. Traffic into downtown Charlevoix was very slow but once we got there getting my bib, shirt, and reusable race bag was very easy. One thing I loved about the race was how small the bib was
After scoping out the race area and getting my bib we strolled around the beautiful lakefront and then headed to our campsite which was located about 15 miles away. I spent the rest of the day taking it easy and getting my race kit put together.
Since the marathon start time was at 6:30am and I like to be early we decided that I would drive myself to the race. So, if you’re envisioning Trevor and the kids out on the course cheering me on or waiting at the finish line, that didn’t happen.
There was plenty of free downtown parking on race morning. I got there around 45 minutes before the race started and had my choice of spots. There was also plenty of time to use the port-a-pots and head over to the start area. A listener named Mike who was there for the half marathon found me and we had a nice chat and got a picture. He mentioned that he might find me out on the course later and run a couple miles with me. I also saw MTA member Heidi at the start. She and her sister were doing the 10k which started at 7:15am.
The half marathon started a half hour after the marathon.
The race had a good announcer and sound system and they solicited a volunteer from the crowd to sing the National Anthem (since their scheduled person called in sick). The weather was clear and mid-50’s at the start and the early morning light was beautiful. I lined up just behind the 3:45 pace group and waited for the starting gun. I felt excited to be there with just the right amount of pre-race anticipation.
The start line is on Bridge Street just beyond the draw bridge which opens every 30 minutes. Lake Michigan was visible just to the left and Round Lake to the right. For the first three miles we went through some nice shady neighborhoods before winding out of town on a paved bike/walk path.
The course is an out and back so that makes it more predictable than point to point courses. You know anything that goes up on the way out will be down on the way back and vise versa. The course is mostly flat with a few rolling hills. There was one hill in the earlier miles that I briefly walked because I didn’t want to elevate my heart rate too much at that point. There were also some downhill sections that I let my legs fly on a little bit. A couple times I looked down at my pace and it made me hopeful that I wouldn’t blow up later.
The course ventures around the local ski mountain Mount McSauba, down tree lined roads, along the lakeshore, and then the turn around point was at Little Traverse Bay. There were a couple miles of the course on a wooden bridge that was a nice change on the legs. I can see why Runner’s World Magzine named the Charlevoix Marathon as one of the best “small town marathons” in the United States.
The course stayed nice and wide throughout and there was plenty of room to run. This felt like a big contrast from previously running the London Marathon where it was crowded the whole way. There were stretches that I wasn’t running around anyone but there were also plenty of sections where I leap frogged other runners who were around the same pace. Toward the last 10 miles there were some half marathon walkers out on the course as well. The course is advertized as fast and flat (unless you’re from Florida says the race info). They also advertize a high rate of BQ’s on the course. In 2018 19.6% of marathoners BQ’d and this year 16.4% BQ’d.
The weather warmed up to the high 60’s and it felt warm out in the sun. However, there were also frequent shady sections which were helpful. Several times the course opened up with great views of Lake Michigan which was beautiful. The fire department had a hose sprinkler set up around mile 23 for runners to cool off if they needed to.
There weren’t many spectators out on the course so it was nice to see the friendly people at the aid stations. The aid stations were located approximately every 1.5 miles and had water and sports drink. A few locations also had extras like candy and there was even a bacon stop. Since the course was out and back the bacon stop was located at mile 3 and 23 and I didn’t feel like testing my body with it at that point. For my fueling I used Generation Ucan snack bars (one 30 minutes before) and ½ bar every 5 miles. I also took some electrolyte capsules. I was also drinking a cup of water at each aid station and dumping one on myself to stay cool.
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During the marathon my mantra was “keep pushing.” This kept me from getting comfortable at a pace and slacking off (and also helped keep my mindset strong). My legs felt strong although I did have some glute soreness which I took as a good sign that they were doing their job (and not giving me hamstring pain).
At mile 24 I was surprised to see Mike, who I’d met earlier, show up to pace and encourage me. It was great to have his company and that helped me push up a final hill and finish mile 26 with a 7:58 pace. I had a strong finishing kick the final 0.2 miles to cross the finish line in 3:39:25. This was my 58th marathon and 45th state and 4th fastest marathon (haven’t run faster for 5 years). My split for the first half was 1:48:40 and 2nd half split was 1:51:06. Overall, I was 88/364 and the 21/168 female. In addition to squeaking out a BQ (my qualifying time is 3:40).
The finish line was located back in historic Charlevoix. There were a good number of spectators cheering runners to a strong finish.
Winners: The men’s winner for the marathon was Leo Foley with a time of 2:42:46. The female marathon champion was Rachel Whipple with a time of 3:07:30. For the HM the male champion was Will Schrantz with a time of 1:13:44 and the female HM winner was Shelby Kelsh with a time of 1:23:27. The marathon had a total of 364 finishers, the HM had 719, the 10k had 279 and the 5k had 359 finishers. The finisher’s medal was large and had a beautiful design.
The post race area was past the bridge in the downtown area where they’d hosted packet pickup. For food and drink options they had water, chocolate milk, licorice, fruit snacks, bananas, apples, chips, popcorn, pizza, and rice krispie bars. Runners reclined on the grass out in the sun to eat their food, wait for family members, and to participate in the post-race award ceremony.
MTA Meet Up:
I drove back to our camper and was able to get a shower before we headed back to Charlevoix for the MTA meet up at The Villager Pub. It was awesome to get to meet Dan Beard from MI who ran the marathon, Heidi from MD (who was coming off an injury that prevented her from doing the marathon and walked the 10k and her sister Wendy who walked her first 10k, and sisters Karen and Beth from MI who did the half marathon as part of their training for an upcoming marathon.
After the race I met up with another MTA listener from the Traverse City area named Amy. She’d run and did great in the 5k and it was fun to talk with her. Since my phone died she graciously became my personal photographer. I went and checked my time and was shocked to see that I finished first in my AG (40-44). However I wasn’t able to stick around for the award ceremony because I needed to get back to Trevor and the boys. I also met up with listener Tina and her husband Mike (who was a great at cheering out on the course). Tina also finished 1st in her AG and BQ’d.
I mentioned that I started the marathon around the 3:45 pace group but quickly passed the group because there was too much talking and it was hard for me to focus. I guess I just wasn’t in the head space for being around a group the whole marathon (maybe because I’d basically had no privacy or alone time in the previous 5 days as we traveled with the camper). I put on an audiobook (which I find helps keep my mind engaged without the adrenaline spikes that music can provide) and listened to that until my phone died around mile 15.
My strategy going into the race was to run as strong as possible and leave it all there. That was one reason why I kept a fairly aggressive pace in the beginning.
I had just come off reading the book Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins and that really helped me be in a good place mentally. For those who aren’t familiar with him, he came from a very rough background of poverty and abuse and went on to become a Navy Seal and general bad ass.
He’s a very extreme personality who is driven to find the limits physically and mentally (he also went through Army Ranger training, set the pull up record for 4,230 pull ups in 24 hours, has run the Badwater 135 numerous times, etc.) While I don’t endorse his way of training because he absolutely trashes his body, he shares a lot of great mindset strategies and tips. In fact he starts out the book with a solo mission that goes like this:
“Situation: You are in danger of living a life so comfortable and soft that you will die without ever realizing your true potential. Mission: To unshackle your mind. Ditch the victim’s mentality forever. Own all aspects of your life completely. Build an unbreakable foundation. Execution: Read this cover to cover. Study the techniques within, accept all ten challenges. Repeat. Repetition will callous your mind. If you do your job to the best of your ability, this will hurt. This mission is not about making yourself feel better. This mission is about being better and having a greater impact on the world. Don’t stop when you are tired. Stop when you are done.” -David Goggins
There’s a lot of language in the book but it’s also fascinating and a great way to dial in a stronger mental game.
“Please share your goals, pacing strategy, and any adjustments you made during the race.” -Peter
My goal going into this marathon was to have a strong race and finish as sub-4 as possible. I had a lot of confidence coming off the London Marathon 7 weeks ago that I could at least do that time (3:59) or better. After London I took 2-3 weeks for easy running and didn’t do any runs over 90 minutes during that time. Then I had time to do a 17 mile (2:30) long run and 20 mile (3:05) long run before doing a 3 week taper before this marathon. Both long runs were run in fairly warm conditions on a hilly course and I averaged around a 9:35 pace. So this didn’t give me a lot of information on how my body would do on a flatter marathon course. I’d lost about 6 more pounds since the London Marathon so I knew this would also be a factor in my favor.
Are you still using the Hanson’s Marathon Training Method? -Debbie
When we did the episode about how we were training for the London Marathon I mentioned that I was loosely basing my training off the Hanson’s Training Method. So, I need to clarify that I never strictly followed this method. But I did take some features and incorporate them into my training. That would include running more days per week, going into my long run with my legs somewhat fatigued, and capping my longest run at 3 hours.
Since the London Marathon I’ve been doing most of my shorter training runs on the treadmill because my allergies have been so bad. I also find that it’s easier to keep my pace slower for easy runs on the TM because there isn’t the variation in terrain. I’ve been keeping up my schedule of core and lower body strength training, getting regular massage, and getting lots of sleep.
My Pacing Strategy
I can’t say that I had much of a pacing strategy going in to the Charlevoix Marathon. I wanted to keep my effort level fairly steady in the first 20 miles so that it was challenging but not exhausting. From experience I know that I can usually muster a few strong finishing miles so I had the mental confidence going in that I can be strong after mile 20.
One of my go-to mantras is “I’m stronger after mile 20.” I’ve also heard some coaches say that the first half of a marathon is through mile 20 and the second half is the final 10k. I started just behind the 3:45 pacing group thinking that it would be a nice stretch goal. However, like I mentioned, I decided early on to pass that group because it felt too wearing to listen to the constant chatter. I figured at some point that I might end up seeing them again.
I tried to take advantage of certain features of the course like opening up my pace a bit on downhill sections. A couple times I glanced down to see my pace, saw it was pretty fast for the early miles, did a body scan (breathing, muscles, etc), and hoped I wouldn’t regret that pace later. I think every marathoner worries occasionally about a fast first half coming back to bite them. I’ve certainly blown up plenty of times later in a marathon. But I knew that my energy felt solid and the cool morning was working to my advantage so I wanted to capitalize on that as much as possible too.
Mentally I tried to maintain a balance of being focused but not obsessing over the little things. It’s a temptation during a marathon to fall back to the pace of least resistance and I was determined to fight that. My mantra every time I felt any negativity or doubt creep in was “you’re okay, stay hard.” I also kept telling myself, “keep pushing.”
I was able to reel in a couple runners who had gotten ahead of me during the race and that felt good. It’s okay to let a bit of competition creep in as long as you’re careful to keep the big picture in mind. Most of us aren’t racing for 1st place so it’s important to not let your ego get the better of you by racing people mid-race.
Around mile 20 I was trying to do some calculations in my head and figured that if I could keep sub-9:00 miles to the finish I would finish around 3:40. But math is hard during a marathon so I didn’t obsess over my pace and just kept pushing. With 3 miles left I realized that I had a good chance of finishing sub 3:40 which would be a BQ if I kept up my pace. But I never allow myself to get overconfident until I’ve actually crossed the finish line.
At mile 24 MTA listener Mike showed up to run the last couple miles with me. He figured out what my pace was and stayed just ahead of me with his orange shirt. One thought I had was “I can’t let him see me whimp out in the last couple of miles.” Despite pushing hard up a final hill around this point I still had enough in me to have a good finishing kick for the last 0.2 miles. It was almost unbelievable to look down and see sub 3:40 on my watch. I got the biggest post-marathon high feeling so happy and grateful for such a strong marathon. When I got over to the timing table and saw my official time of 3:39:25 along with the news that I was first in my age group it was icing on the cake.
Also Mentioned in This Episode
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