Great Lakes Bay Marathon, Midland, MI

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Great Lakes Bay Marathon, Midland, MI

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This was a well run event on a flat certified course.  We stayed up there at Fairview Inn on Saturday night and as the check out time was noon were able to take a shower post race before the drive home.  Driving around the course on Saturday a storm cell hit the area and dumped slushy snow on the car briefly!  I  hoped this was not an indication of the next days weather.  There was a few miles of road with pot holes in it early on, a nice stretch of firm sandy road after mid way, lots of long straight country roads (very quiet!), and the last 4 miles on a bike path through the woods before Dow Diamond (home of the Midland Loons) where the finish was over home base.

Weather conditions in the morning were in the mid 40's with a clear sky for the 7am start.  Last year this event was terribly hot and in the 80'sF.  I was very happy with my good fortune of cool weather.
I met my pace group leader, Mike, who is also from Rochester Hills and normally runs sub 3 hour marathons when not pacing.  I told him I wanted a PB time 5 minutes better than previous PB and 5 minutes under the Boston qualifying mark.  I was #86 (you know it is a small event when you have a 2 digit number) and they announced there were 800 entries but am not sure if that was for the entire weekend of races because there only seemed to be just a few hundred at the marathon start line.
As usual the first half was easy, I was carrying a belt with 2 bottles of gatorade and 4 Gu's (tangerine is my favorite).  My wife was having fun navigating to several spectator points in the car which she found so much easier than doing the same on the Detroit course.  I think there was one entertainment station on the course and it seemed like if you could see a porta potty then you must be on the right course.  The temperatures were starting to get close to 60F by the 20 mile mark and prior to that a head wind for several miles.  Then we hit the bike path where there was some shade and this was my struggling point.  
I can not say enough about the importance of running with a Pace Leader during a marathon!  First you get to run with a group (you can run by yourself any day of the week), you get to talk with people, they are telling jokes, they are getting told off by their spectating wives for "not following the plan", you get to shelter from the wind :) behind them, and overall the miles pass by much quicker.

We were finding our Garmin's were clicking off the miles ahead of the mile markers on the road side and so needed to speed up a little to be sure of maintaining the correct pace.  Road side mile markers are more important than what the Garmin says.  After 23 miles I was finding it difficult to maintain the pace.  While I was low on energy and nothing was feeling too bad my head was telling me I was hurting and should slow down.  I kept thinking of one particular day late February this year doing 18 miles around Stoney Creek Metro park when it was so cold the Gatorade became slushy and I was concerned about frost bite on my lips.  Was I going to slow down after doing all those cold winter runs?  

This is where Mike was unbelievably valuable encouraging and pushing me to keep going.  I was the only runner still with Mike (a few had pulled ahead but most had faded behind) and therefore was subject to all his attention.  How invaluable is that?  My own personal trainer pushing me to the finish.
Entering the Dow Diamond was amazing that my legs were still going at a rate better than needed finishing nearly a minute quicker than the original goal.

Another good thing about these smaller events is that the car is never parked far from the finish line which means your support group is more likely to see you finish and the shorter walk after finishing is greatly appreciated.

So I'm Boston bound for 2015!  I will not run a full marathon at that crazy pace again but instead run to enjoy, drink the adult beverages along the way, and pace others to reach their goals.