I guess I'll start off with a little background. Brookings was my second marathon, the first being Seattle last November where I ran a 3:46:14. My Seattle training had been hampered by a bout of ITBS and I basically went into that race hoping just to finish. For Brookings I used the Pfitz 18/55 plan and only missed two runs (because of a stomach flu) but one of them was my last 20 miler which left me kind of worried. Also, during the last week of taper I noticed that my right knee was feeling stiff and slightly sore but it never really hurt but it still gave me something else to worry about in the days leading up to the race. My goal for Brookings was to run a 3:30, a pretty big PR but based on my training and the fact that Brookings is a flat course, I felt it was doable.
I drove the 6.5 hours from Spearfish to Brookings on Friday. This is a very small race so there was no expo. The packet pick-up was at the South Dakota State Univ. student union building where they also had a pasta dinner and a guest speaker. I picked up my packet and took off to grab my own dinner and try to relax in my hotel room. I had a hell of a time falling asleep Friday night...it seemed like every time I was about to drift off I'd think about the race again and then I was wide awake. I ended up getting about 4 hours of sleep.
Saturday morning I woke up long before daybreak so that I could eat some breakfast two hours before the 7:00 race start. Shuttles were available from the starting area to all of the local hotels, but I decided to drive myself. I went to the starting area at Pioneer Park at about 6:00 and there was plenty of parking available within 100 yards of the start line. As predicted, the weather wasn't the greatest on Saturday. It was overcast with scattered showers and a steady wind of 20 mph out of the north all day long and the temperature was in the 40s for the entire race. At the start line I wore extra clothing to warm up in, then shed the extra stuff just before the start.
The race started almost on a time, just a few minutes after 7:00.I was near the front of the (small) pack of runners at the start but quickly fell behind the faster marathoners and half-marathoners. About a quarter mile into the race I realized I should have hit the porta-john one last time before the start but then thought I might be able to run through it. The first half of the race wound around downtown Brookings, the old-town residential district, the SDSU campus and a couple of parks. Typically, my first mile was a little too fast but I settled into a pretty good groove after that as I fell in step with some other runners going at about my desired pace of 8:00/mile. At mile 7 I finally accepted the fact that I needed to stop and take a leak because it was pretty much all I could think about. So I jumped into the next available porta-john and took the quickest whizz of my life. At mile 11 the half-marathoners split off and headed toward the finish line, at which point the course became significantly lonelier. I was running with one other guy at this time and we briefly discussed football before I passed him around mile 12. It was at this point that I realized that yet another bodily urge was coming on and that there was no stopping it. I began desperately seeking out the next bathroom and finally, just before the halfway point, I found one, dove in, and took care of business as quickly as possible. I then set out trying to catch back up with the people I had been ahead of before nature struck. By mile 15 or 16 I had accomplished that except for the guy who I had talked football with. I could see him about 50 yards in front of me and I followed him for a good 5 miles but somewhere around mile 22 I started slowing down and he started getting further and further away. As I mentioned, the course was much lonelier after the 11 mile mark. During the last half of the race I only passed 7 or 8 runners, mostly because I had to stop for the bathroom. During the last ten miles I passed three runners. The good news is that no one passed me during the second half. I was able to maintain my goal pace until mile 22 when I slowly started to fade. The first half of the course was plenty sheltered so the 20 mph wind wasn't really an issue. But the second half took off south of town around a couple of parks and then started working its way north back towards the finish at Pioneer Park. This part of the course was much less sheltered than the first half and the long stretches of running directly into a headwind started taking their toll. From miles 22-25 I wasn't feeling too hot....my stomach felt weak and my legs were dead tired. I did pass a couple of people during this stretch though and that boosted my confidence a little. At mile 25 I knew that I was going to have to pick it up to finish in 3:30. I was running this marathon in memory of my grandmother, who passed away in December and would have been 87 years old on May 2nd so I wanted to finish strong. So I gave it all I had left and crossed the line in 3:29:40. It should be noted that this was my watch time, which doesn't include my unscheduled bathroom break at mile 13. My official chip time was 3:30:37. I finished 22nd (out of 134) overall, and 4th (out of a whopping 9) in my age group. Here are my splits, which clearly show the tougher miles.
Mile 1 - 7:48 (oops, shoulda known I'd go out too fast)
Mile 2 - 8:03 (much better)
Mile 3 - 8:04 (getting in the groove)
Mile 4 - 7:46 (ran with a pack of half-marathoners)
Mile 5 - 7:58 (better again)
Mile 6 - 7:46 (with the half-marathoners again)
Mile 7 - 8:08 (bathroom break)
Mile 8 - 7:57
Mile 9 - 7:51
Mile 10 - 7:58
Mile 11 - 7:43 (last mile with the halfers)
Mile 12 - 8:02
Mile 13 - 7:37 (trying to make up time after 2nd bathroom break)
Mile 14 - 8:00
Mile 15 - 7:38 (downhill and with the wind at my back)
Mile 16 - 8:06
Mile 17 - 8:03
Mile 18 - 8:05
Miles 19 and 20 - 15:58 (missed the 19 marker)
Mile 21 - 8:06 (starting to feel tired)
Mile 22 - 8:11 (definitely tired)
Mile 23 - 8:21 (how much further?)
Mile 24 - 8:19 (is this ever going to end?)
Mile 25 - 8:18
Mile 26 - 7:54 (3:30 or bust!!!)
Mile 26.2 - 1:47 (Thank God!!!)
Overall, this was a great event. There were approximately twice as many volunteers as there were marathon finishers. Aid stations were spaced well and stocked with Powerade and water. Bathrooms were also available at regular intervals along the course (thankfully). There weren't a ton of spectators (it's a small marathon in a small town, what can you expect?) but the spectators who were there were very enthusiastic, as were the volunteers along the course, despite the chilly weather. I don't think I've ever said "thank you" so many times in a single day but everyone was so energetic and supportive that I had to respond. There was one group of girls (who were pretty good lookin) in a Mini Cooper who I saw at a few different points along the course cheering on each runner as they came by.The course itself was very nice. Brookings is a beautiful town, with lots of trees, parks and some nice old houses. Over 26.2 miles, you get to see damn near the entire town without ever covering the same ground twice. It was also nice and flat with only one real hill at around mile 15. South Dakota is notoriously windy and it's obvious that the race director knows this and has designed the course in a way that minimizes the runners' exposure as much as possible. The course was marked very well with volunteers positioned to point runners in the right direction at the turns. The mile markers were laid out well too. I missed one but it was probably due more to my own inattentiveness than the positioning of the marker. Really, I only have two complaints about the race. The first is the weather, which (unfortunately) can't be controlled. The second is the shirts which I thought were kind of ugly (I'm not big on yellow). Otherwise, this is a great event and if you haven't experienced a small-town marathon than this is definitely one to look into.