Guest Post From AC (Lincoln Marathon Partner In Crime)
April 30th Andrea Jansa and I left the comforts of home to begin the drive to Lincoln, NE. After three hours of lively discussions about politics, races and life we arrived in Lincoln. Andrea J. was immediately saddened by the fact that she forgot to bring her Hawkeye glitter to spread on the field across the “Big N” at the finish line in the Cornhusker stadium. I guess those Hawkeye cheerleaders keep that spirit alive well after graduation, although she is only 26. We soon discovered that Lincoln is a small town and very easy to negotiate. We pulled right into downtown and went to the Expo at the Embassy Suites. We avoided all the vendors and headed right to the race pack pick-up. After pick-up we hit the streets to find food. We ended up at Noodles. Although it was a chain the carbs seem appropriate. We really tried to find a local joint, but there really were very few choices that did not include red meat as their specialty.
Our afternoon consisted of a tour of the capital building and relaxing in the Microtel hotel room. Yes, I said a tour of the capital building. Andrea J’s goal is to see all 50. I learned some very interesting facts about this building which has been called the (a male body part) on the prairie. It stands over 14 stories tall and has a 19 foot statue on top of a farmer sowing seeds which also serves as a weather vane. It actually was quite beautiful with some impressive marble mosaics and art work. Dinner consisted of more pasta in a cute little section of downtown called Haymarket Square and more relaxing as well as race strategizing .
Race morning was a breeze. We pulled into downtown, parked on the street and walked about 4 blocks to the starting line. We kept warm in the coliseum and then headed to the starting line just before 7:00 a.m. Our pacer showed up soon after and we moved in close to him. Our goal was to run a 3:40 and trust in the process of running with the pacer. Online they gave a full description of their strategy which included going slow to start, then picking up the pace while accounting for slower miles where there were hills. Lincoln does have hills despite what you have heard.
Bang! The gun went off and we waited. After about 5 minutes we made it to the starting mat. I started my watch and off we went. The first thing I noticed was wow, this really is slow. I wanted to sprint away, but Andrea J. kept me in line and would fall back with the group. We hit mile one at maybe at 9:15 pace. “Trust in then process Andrea!” I kept telling myself. Soon the pace picked up. We weaved through downtown into residential neighborhoods. By miles three and four we were running 7:50 minute miles. The roads were packed with people and it was all I could do to stay with the group. I was jumping curbs and running though packs of friends, “On your left!” This was supposed to be the most beautiful part of the course with the tree line boulevard with stately mansions. It was all I could do to watch the group and keep up. I missed the beautiful houses, for the most part.
Finally around mile five we evened out and Andrea J. reported to me that we averaging about an 8:10 pace and doing great. We eased in front of the pace group but could hear their conversations and see them out of the corner of our eye. I saw a bank with the temperature on the sign, 50 degrees. It was a great day for running. We plugged along for a bit more before Andrea J. reported that we were about to hit the trail. We scurried to the front of the pack and burst on to the trail as quick as we could to avoid the stampede. Basically all the runners that were spread across two lanes of traffic were now suddenly smashed onto one 10 foot bike trail. We knew this was coming and knew this could potentially be a spot were we lost our lead on the clock. We picked up the pace again. We passed people in the grass on the left and the right and squeezed through friends. All I kept thinking is, “these people had no business lining up at the start where they did, because they are way too slow.” I am crabby when I run. The trail offered other obstacles as well; curbs. At the streets we had to jump curbs to get back on the trail. This was definitely something I was not used to in marathons.
One huge plus to Lincoln: they put lids on their cups and have straws!! I ran through ever water stop because I could sip through the straw while running instead of splashing most my drink across my
Finally we got off the trail and back into a neighborhood. This was the dreaded hill I had heard about. It really was not so bad. It was like running up Grand Ave. in Des Moines from downtown to the Art Center. Andrea J. reported that our time had slowed, but we were still ok with an 8:18 pace. The good news was were ahead of the pace group, so we knew we were ok. We spotted some people who had also started in our pace group ahead of us, so we fell in behind them and kept moving. We looped through another neighborhood until we got close to downtown, then once again we smooshed together into a single traffic lane. The crowds were terrible. We could not get around people. All I kept thinking was, “Why can’t we have another lane?” It was Sunday morning and there was hardly any traffic. Andrea J. and I once again hopped curbs, ran in the gutter and ran around cones to get past people. I was so ready to get rid of the half marathon people.
As we neared the stadium I knew those halfers would be leaving us soon. As they veered off our road Andrea J. and I looked at each other and said, “Ahh space.” We looped around the outside of the campus and soon saw the 14 mile sign. Andrea J. looked back and reported that she could see the 3:40 pace group about 100 yards back. Rats!! But that is ok, we are right were we need to be. Right? We eased our way onto what I can only describe as a viaduct. It was a cement gully with a cement trail down the middle. It seemed to be for rain water. The trail rolled up and down under brides and back up. We felt the heat. The pace group eased up behind us. I could hear them talking as if they were on a leisurely Saturday morning run. Was I the only one getting tired?
The pace group took us over and we fell in with them. I would say I stayed with them for about a mile, and then they began to pull ahead, taking my running buddy with them. More power to Andrea. J. I wanted her to stick with them even if I could not. I could still see them so I convinced myself that was good enough. After the viaduct we jumped more curbs and ended up in another single lane of a street. Once again pushed to the side because now the leaders were returning on the same street. Yes, that is right for the final 13.1 miles you run out and back. Lots of thought put into that route. I plugged along telling myself it is like a short out and back run- I can do that, no problem. The miles passed me by.
By mile 19 I saw a big hill. In my mind I said, “Oh please don’t let me have to climb that hill. I am sure we turn around before we climb that hill.” But sure enough we climbed the hill. There were people walking up the hill at this point. Bummer. I plugged ahead. Next, a lake, and a short hop down a side street where we ran around a cone and headed back the way we came. It is like the Des Moines half marathon were you have to go down the street and run around a cone before you head back to MLK, but in true Lincoln style you have to jump up a curb on the way back. Do you how bad it hurts to hop curbs after running 20 miles? As I was heading down the road, Andrea J. and the pace group were heading back to the lake. She mouthed, “Are you ok?” I smiled “yes, go!”.
I turned right back onto the road we came out on and a wall of wind hit my face. Now I really started to doubt whether I could do this. Had I had a tail wind helping me the whole way out and I was completely unaware? If so, I am screwed. My visor was blowing off, so I attempted to hold on to it while running. That was fun. I plugged ahead. One foot in front of the other. I saw several solders running in their fatigues with their packs and thought, “If they can do it, you can do it.” There were great fans along this stretch too cheering on #526. That we me! How nice of them. It really does make a difference. I was down to five miles left.
I broke down five miles in my head. That is a run from my house up Polk Blvd. to Kingman to MLK and back. Piece of cake. I completely stopped watching my pace at this point. I lost sight of the pace group, but knew I was ahead of the 3:45 pace group, so I was still good. I kept thinking of those t-shirts that say Pain is Temporary, and others that said I am a Drinker with a Running Problem. What is another 40 minutes? I can handle that. I plugged ahead. I passed two ladies who had been in the pace group and had fallen off. Ok, that made me feel good. I was sure to drink water at every stop and had a gel every 45 minutes. I finished my last one at 3 hours in.
With about 3 miles left I saw Andrea J. walking on the road ahead of me. She fell in with me and I said, “Let’s do this.” She had hung on with the pace group for the last 8 miles. She is amazing.
We pushed on, jumped another curb and got back on the viaduct trail. This is really just like running from 31st street to my house. Big deal, right? Andrea J. would walk through the water stops and then would catch back up to me. I started watching my time again. We were doing ok. We weren’t going to hit 3:40 but we were pretty darn close.
At the 25 mile marker Andrea J. declared she was walking. My response was, “No you are NOT, this is like running from University to my house down Polk Blvd. You got this.” We pushed ahead and she picked up the pace. For someone who was going to walk she sure seemed to be in better shape than me. We turned the corner and the stadium was in sight. I could have cried but that would have taken too much energy. Andrea J. declared that we had .2 left to go. Thank God! That was the longest .2 of my life. We finally entered the stadium. There were announcing Andrea J.’s name as she sprinted to the finish. I maintained my pace and pretty much walked across the finish line. A lady handed me a rose, we got our picture taken and we wobbled away. 3:45:53 (8:38 pace) Andrea J.’s Garmin said the distance was 26.42. Bummer.
On the way home Andrea made a list of all the state capitals and we discussed which marathon we should do next.
Cheers, Andrea C.