Sunday, September 18, 2011

Race Result: 2011 Bismarck Half-Marathon & 5K (aka the Maas Family Sweep)

Event: 2011 Bismarck Marathon, Half-Marathon, and 5K (USATF)
Date: Saturday September 17, 2011
Location: Bismarck, ND 
Hotel: Kim and Juanita Hocking (in-laws)
Weather: 49F, cloudy with drizzle, winds from SSE at 9-12 MPH
Official Results: 2011 Marathon overall results; 2011 Half-Marathon Overall Results; 2011 5K Overall Results

Personal Results
Goal: 01:27:59 (6:42 per mile pace)
Actual: 01:25:04 (6:30 per mile pace)
Overall: 4th overall (419 total); 1st overall in Male Masters (40 & over); 1st in 50-54 AG (17 total)

2011 Bismarck Half-Marathon Male Masters Champ!
I was just starting my warm-up around the start/finish line of the Bismarck Marathon extravaganza when I heard, "Brian?" The query did not register with me until it was repeated, "Brian?" I turn to see none other than the venerable Jerry MacNeil. Jerry is Minnesota's most recognizable triathlon announcer. Jerry had been invited to announce this event by the Bismarck triathlete group. So, I knew I was at a big time event.

Jerry at the mic

The Bismarck event had been moved this year due to the severe flooding along the Missouri river. Usually a flat course along the river, it had to find higher ground so moved further into the city. Find high ground they did as you will see by the elevation map.

It was a wonderful event. The race organizers and volunteers really hit it on the head with this one. Best biffy's ever....and so many of them! Massage tent. Food. Fast results. They didn't miss a beat. Even when they had to pump water off one of the trails. I told you the flooding has been bad this year.

We (myself, the Boy® and the Well Kept Wife©) felt it necessary to head over to Bismarck to compete in the event and lay down some cash in a town that has had a rough year. So, of course, we made sure to hit Scheels where the Boy® and I purchased a 357 pistol. OK, so it is a pellet gun, but we were pretty thrilled. Scheels once again showed its true class by helping us with the purchase and continues to put to shame the big box sports stores in the Twin Cities with its superior customer service.

Race day arrived and it was dark when we got to the race site at 6:20 AM. It was 49F, but it didn't feel too bad. We looked around to get the lay of the land and then I lined up at 7:10 AM.

The Boy and Well Kept Wife stand tall for the National Anthem

How it looked at the start
My goal was to really bust one. I was going to go out fast, hit the Big Hill at mile 5 and attack it, continue to run hard and then try and hold on. And it pretty much went as planned. Let's break the race down into five segments.

Miles 1-3

Mile 1 - 6:15
Mile 2 - 6:24
Mile 3 - 6:31

The Marathoner's, Half-Marathoner's, and Marathon relay participants all started together. Bib color's differentiated us. I lined up right on the start line. The smell of a nearby cow farm and freshly mowed hay was wafting in from the south. It was pretty chilly and I went with a black, long-sleeved Under Armour underneath the race singlet. No gloves, though. I was going back and forth about the Under Armor right up to 5-mins before the start. I'm glad I stuck with it, though, as the wind was a factor and later in the race I found myself getting chilled when facing it.

As I said, my goal was to go out faster than the 6:42 pace which was my goal. Early on I was running around 6:00 flat and then 6:10 and instead of panicking, I simply slowed to what I thought was a comfortable pace and one I could feasibly hold for at least ten miles. So I started to hover in the 6:20s. There was a broken group of about eight of us. I was looking around for anyone that might be over 40 as I had three goals:
  1. Finish and collect a finishers medal
  2. Win the male 50-54 age group (good for a marathon winners jacket)
  3. Win the Male Master (40 & over division) which would net a trophy and $100 check
Through mile one there was no one who could be mistaken for an old fart. Then, a guy passed me. Slight bald spot. Could be in his 40's, maybe not. Hard to tell. Shoot. What to do? Again, no panic. It would be a long race and there was a mile long hill ahead. I simply kept him in my sights.

Note - I was later to find out after the race was over that the person was Bismarck's own Tom Van De Meutter, age 43. Masters categorization was 40 and over. And he is a great runner.

After mile two there was a sharp left turn on the bike trail. I somehow stepped on the portion that was the slight side of the asphalt where it hits the grass. I felt my right Achilles stretch and it was starting to hurt and I was wondering if my day was over. I ran flat-footed for a bit and the pain wore off.

As we breezed past mile three I was starting to feel pretty good.

Miles 4-6


Mile 4 - 6:34
Mile 5 - 6:28
Mile 6 - 7:16

The Big Hill loomed. I had made sure to incorporate hill repeats into my workouts for the last four weeks. So, I wasn't in any way fearing this hill. But there it was, you could see it a good mile away and it started to look daunting. I was hoping to maybe drop no more than 10-15 seconds off my goal pace of 6:42 which should have put me at about 6:52-55 range. I ended up going 7:16 and I was rather proud of that!

The half-marathon elevation map
At this point, Van De Meutter was maintaining about 50-yards on me. However, I was noticing I was slowly starting to reel him in. About half-way up the climb, I was really starting to close. Now I'm thinking, "Is he 40+ or isn't he?"

I couldn't take the chance. I recalled a conversation with my brother-in-law, Kim Hocking, who had told me the night before that there were additional little hills on the campus of St. Mary's which sat at the top of the hill. And we would be running on the campus for a good mile plus. After having noticed that Van De Meutter was slowing on the hills I decided to make a tactical last gasp move to close and over take him in this area.

Miles 7-9

Mile 7 - 6:12
Mile 8 - 5:59
Mile 9 - 6:19

I carry my high school cross country training with me. You could say those days and what I learned are burned into my brain. I shortened my stride going up the hill and then kept that effort after cresting and began to increase my stride. I was not surprised to see my pace go from a little over 7 minutes a mile to a minute per mile faster. On the back side of the campus we were suddenly greeted with a throng of students to our left and the wide open prairie of North Dakota on our right. You could see for miles. I only wish I had time to enjoy that view, that vista. It was stunning.

By the time we had weaved through the campus and head back to descend the Big Hill I was really starting to hit my rhythm. I had passed Van De Meutter and he was holding on. The race was not yet won.

I let fly on the descent. When I hit the bottom the watched beeped a mile split of 5:59. I could still hear footsteps behind me. Knowing the cardinal rule is to never look back, I instead used the crowd to tell me if I was widening the advantage I had built up.

I would pass a crowd and there would be clapping and cow bells and other noisemakers. Then silence until the next runner came along. I started to count the seconds in that gap. First it was 5 seconds. Then 8 seconds. Then 14 seconds. So I was lengthening my advantage, but there was a lot of race left.

At mile 8, I guess you could say my secret weapon was waiting. The night before, Kim and I had discussed the perfect spot where he could be to pass me a water bottle. It contained INTERPHASE Recovery Matrix which is made by the same makers of Carbo-Pro. I would usually use Carbo-Pro during a race, like I do for all my multi-sport races, but I wanted some extra kick today.

So shortly after Mile 8, there stood Kim. I grabbed the bottle and ran with it for the next 3/4's of a mile taking swigs as I ran. I only consumed about 1/2 the bottle and then tossed it at the next aid station. I was now fueled for what remained.

Miles 10-12

Mile 10 - 6:18
Mile 11 - 6:22
Mile 12 - 6:24

This stretch wasn't too bad. I just kept trying to maintain a 6:20ish pace. I took assessment of myself as I ran along and nothing seemed too bad other than some twinges from the right hamstring. The quads had survived the downhill very well. The Achilles seemed fine. I wasn't laboring too bad. On my 12 mile training runs leading to the event I had found that I could put in some very strong miles between 9-10 and I applied that knowledge here.

By the time I hit 11.5 miles a misty drizzle had started to fall. And I was reaching the part of the course where the tailwind was now a crosswind. And I was starting to stiffen. I still refused to look over my shoulder.

Mile 12 came and the crowds were getting a bit thicker. A race official yelled, "You are way up amongst the leaders."

And then it became very painful.
The Finish

Mile 13 - 6:34
Finish (0.2) - 1:22

The crosswind now became a very cold headwind. My legs immediately went stiff. I was hurting now. I kept telling myself to just stay loose. Only one mile to go. And I was now peeking over the shoulder whenever a turn was made. I could see people about 150 yards back. "Could they catch me if I imploded", I asked myself?

The final turn and the long-long-long home stretch. I could see the chute but it was not getting ANY closer. Another furtive look over the shoulder. Finally I could make out Jerry's voice at the line. I heard a, "Brian, is that you?", from him and I waved in acknowledgment. Jerry tore into a diatribe about having one of my best ever triathlon seasons. Coming back from a pelvic stress fracture early in the year. That I was 50 and running a "gosh darn" good time.

And it was over. 

Approaching the finish

The Boy® was the first to reach me followed by the Well Kept Wife©. I remember asking for some warm clothes. I was chilled. I think we all hugged and then Kim, who had come back from Mile 8, snapped a photo of us.
The Clan post race

For winning my age group, I received a very nice winners jacket. For winning the Male Masters overall title, I received my biggest piece of hardware and a check for $100. I was just floored.

But, it got even better. For Boy® and the Well Kept Wife© also each won their age group in the 5K event. A first place sweep for the Maas family, which is a first. We were so thrilled when we saw the posted results. Something like that does not happen every day.

Each also set personal records. The Boy® dropped from 27:48 to 24:34 which placed him 30th overall and 1st in the 11-14 age group (10 total). The Well Kept Wife© dropped from 28:11 to 26:42 and 1st in the female 45-49 age group (15 total). 324 runners ran the 5K.

You can't script a movie like the way this race went for us.

On the podium together for their 5K AG victories
This is something we'll be able to talk about for some time to come. The day we all won our age groups and got some awesome awards. Family is bonding. And this just knit us another strand closer together.

Thanks Bismarck!
Next Event

Sep 24 (signed up) - Plymouth Fire Fighters 5K


bwheat said...

Dude! that's awesome! Way to kick butt and take names. Congrats to you and the family!

Christopher Hawes said...

Congratulations! Great job by the whole family. Way to go