Sunday, May 28, 2017

A Snapshot of Traverse City's Bayshore Marathon

A view of East Grand Traverse Bay from the marathon course
Yesterday, I ran my fourth marathon, the Bayshore Marathon in Traverse City. I have run two Marine Corps Marathons in DC and the Capital City River Run in Lansing. The Bayshore is by far my favorite, and not just because I set a PR (more on that later).

From the volunteers to the spectators to the Moomers ice cream at the finish, everything was well run. But the highlight is the course itself. For almost the entire 26.2 miles, the course follows the roads along the eastern shore of the Old Mission Peninsula. The route gives runners sweeping views of the blue waters of East Grand Traverse Bay.

Cherry blossoms along the course
My description of the views cannot do them justice. My family and I drove along the course several hours after the race so I could show them what I saw, and so I could take a few photos.

If you have to run 26.2 miles, might as well enjoy the view.
The course is mostly flat, but there were a few small hills here and there (the only ones I really noticed were in the last 5 miles, when I was struggling to keep my legs moving). Many of the residents along the route sat in their front yards and cheered the runners on, and some even offered water (or beer. . . I passed on the beer). Olympic marathoner Desi Linden, one of the fastest women in the world, even stood on the sidelines encouraging people who run the marathon hours slower than her.

Another view from the course
As for the PR and the last 5 miles, I had an original goal of an 8:30 minutes-per-mile pace when I began my training plan, but a few weeks into training, I realized I was hitting training paces that equated to an 8:00 minutes-per-mile goal, so I adjusted my pace to 8:00 minutes.

Before this marathon, my fastest marathon was a 4:21:18 in Lansing last year. I had trained for my previous marathons using popular training plans that rely on shorter, easy runs during the week and one long run on the weekend, including two or three runs of 20 miles. In each of my previous marathons, I fell well short of breaking four hours and didn't have the ability to finish the races without walking some.

This time around, I went with the Hansons Marathon Method. I chose their method for four reasons: 1) The Hansons-Brooks Project has trained Olympians (including Desi Linden) and other elite marathoners for years; 2) I have read and heard a ton of good reviews of their plan; 3) I used their half-marathon plan (which is very similar to their marathon plan) and saw marked improvement; and 4) The Hansons-Brooks athletes live and train in Michigan.

The Hansons Method focuses on harder workouts and longer distances during the week and long runs on the weekend that are never longer than 16 miles. The point is to create "cumulative fatigue" during the week, so the weekend long run simulates the last 12 to 16 miles of the marathon, unlike other plans, which simulate the first 12 to 20 miles.

I didn't hit my A goal of 8:00 minutes per mile, but I did take nearly 40 minutes off my personal best and met my B goal by going under 8:30 minutes per mile. I probably would have had a better shot of hitting my A goal if I ran a more consistent and conservative pace for the first half. At 16.2 miles, I was at a 7:54 pace, but I crashed hard with about 5 miles left because of my pace.

With 0.2 miles left, the crowd picked me up.
I struggled to finish, but I never walked and kept my legs moving against their own will. I don't think I picked up my pace in the last half mile, but it didn't hurt as much because the crowd of supporters was much bigger (including my wife and two daughters encouraging me). The last couple hundred meters of the race finished on a high school track, with people packed in the bleachers cheering me on. They gave me that extra push to get across the line, where I grabbed water and found mint chocolate chip Moomers ice cream and a nice place to collapse and eat it.

After I ate my ice cream and got more carbs into my system, I felt satisfied that I broke four hours and crushed my previous personal best. I don't know if I'll run another marathon. I might stick to half marathons. But if I do run another, it will be hard to pick a better one than the Bayshore Marathon.

Struggling to stand, but satisfied

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