Fargo Marathon Race Recap

What a wonderful weekend!

I was able to chalk up my 3rd marathon win this year and a new personal best for 2013.  It was all the more fun to be able to experience that with family and friends.

Where to start the recap?  Perhaps with, well, the race? Okay, because you asked so nicely :).

We woke up the morning of the race at 6:00 for “first breakfast”.  As I’m not a good fat burner, I know I need a lot of easily digestable carbs before the race and need  to take in a lot during the race as well.  So, two rounds of breakfast it is.  Nate, Ben and I sat down to enjoy oatmeal.  The rule we had made the night before was “nothing negative” – only positive comments allowed.  I’ve learned how powerful this can be for a race.  Nobody complained about the wet weather. Ben commented on how he loved the oatmeal – as he stirred it around, obviously trying to choke it down.  Personally, I love plain oatmeal with a little fake sweetener.  I don’t know if he shares that same love, but he wasn’t allowed to say anything otherwise :).

Note to self – don’t eat so much the day before, so that you can wake up hungry.  I wasn’t hungry at all, so probably didn’t eat enough at either breakfast.  

I was finished pretty quickly and laid back down for 20 or so minutes of fitful sleep before getting up again.  Time for a little more food, getting my race gear on, writing a few splits on my hand (2:45 on one hand, 2:50 on another), and packing up everything I’d need.  I headed over to the elite staging area.  Nate and Ben left after me for the Dome, both with nervous anticipation for their first marathons.

The elite staging area was great, although lonely.  There were just 4-5 people there?  Guess that’s a good thing, so I can concentrate on myself.  But I sometimes like the distraction of other people.  I put in my first 4-5 minute warm up with 30 minutes before the start.  Feeling pretty good, although not amazingly springy.  Doesn’t matter,  I told myself.  This is my race and I am ready.

I was told we’d have an escort to the start so sort of waited around for that.  With 10 minutes before the start,  I decided to make my way over myself.  Glad I did… don’t know if there ever was one?  Because of the confusion, I missed my second warm up and strides… duh.  Nichole, you know better than this!  I should have brought myself to the start line earlier to do what I know I need to do.  That was dumb.

Right before the start!

The gun went off at 8:15.  I was calm the first mile, going through at exactly 6:30, which was my goal.  I wanted to take 3 miles to get down below 6:20s, which I was able to execute really well.

Except that at mile 1 I felt a weight on my chest – it was humid and warm.  Disregard it, I told myself.

As I tried to maintain sub-6:20s,  I quickly realized that wasn’t smart.  My legs were working much harder than they should have to maintain mid 6:20s.  So I went with how I felt, telling myself that I’d rather cruise through half way and then be able to bring my pace down then than burn myself out too early.

I came through the half in about 1:24:30-40, not quite sure.  I did the math as was excited  that I’d be able to run sub 2:50, if not 2:48ish with a solid negative split.

At mile 16, family told me that woman #2 was only a block behind me.  Hmmm… good  to know, but a little too close for comfort!

My next hand check point  was at mile 17.  I was still feeling great at this point, and noted I was 45 seconds faster than where my 2:50 split said I should be.  Awesome!  I knew 2:50 was about 6:30 mile pace, so thought to myself that if I could continue to run 6:20s, if not faster that last 5-10k, that I could finish in 2:48 or so.  I’d be pretty happy with that!

But at that point, the sun had come out.  Rut-roh.  Such a noticeable difference between the humid and warm cloud-covered air and the bright blue sky with direct, unfiltered sun.  And as you all know, I am probably one of the worst heat marathoners out there…

I hung on for another 3 miles or so, willing myself to ignore the heat.  Dr. Asp’s training comes in handy here.

Except when your body actually does shut down… there’s nothing your mind can do to will yourself to continue to run fast.  And that’s exactly what happened.  I became increasingly dizzy and light headed.  I’m honestly not sure what is the exact cause – I’ve always dealt with dizziness at the end of marathons (although it’s better now that I take 6 gels along the course and have a lot of breakfast before hand) – so could be sugar/nutrition related or heat related.  Or both.

Either way, I faded… quickly.  Luckily, it looks like everyone else did as well.  The woman who was just 20 seconds back at 16 miles finished 5:15 behind me.  So as bad as I faded… it could have been a lot worse.

BUT – this is absolutely something I need to figure out before Chicago.  It affects my performance a lot.  Obviously, I don’t know if there’s much I can do about the heat or my reaction to it (it has been much more severe since the Gustavus 5k heat incident) – but if anyone has ideas, I would be very appreciative.  I’ll explore a few different nutrition options as well.  I also might be willing to try carb-cycling during my next training cycle to try to get my body to be able to burn fat… whatever it takes to ward off  this awful last 10k dizziness… just need to do more research first.

But – back to the race!  I still have 10 miserable kilometers to cover!  I was so thankful for my lead bike at that point.  I focused on her yellow jacket and told myself to stick with her.  Only problem is that she slows when you slow…  but let’s not dwell on that.  I pretended she was another woman I was racing for the win.  Just stick with her!  I honestly don’t know if there was a whole lot of other thinking going on those last few miles… just pure survival mode. 

At 25.5 miles, a second bike came up beside me.  OH CRAP!!!  I knew there were lead bikes for the 2nd and 3rd place  women as well (well, assuming… since I saw the bikes for the 2nd and 3rd men).  I thought she had caught me!!!!!!!!!!!!

I looked to my left to see if I could catch a glimpse of her.  She had to be really close as that bike was now directly at my side.  I didn’t see anyone, but put my head down and decided to dig.  However crappy I felt and un-functioning my brain was,  I am strong and I can fight.

Luckily, she never showed.  Apparently the other bike was just to help lead me in, and it’s actually really cool to be escorted in like that. Eventually I had three lead bikes with me, but there were about 45 seconds of terror in there before I figured out what they meant. 🙂 

There is nothing like finishing in the Fargodome.  You go down a slight ramp before entering (don’t trip on the grate!  As Nate reminded me… as that’s how I made a graceful appearance in 2009 –  being introduced on the jumbo-tron and then landing full-out on the ground :)) and then finish your last 30 or so seconds in the Dome.  It is so awesome to do it as the lead female. Three bikes with loud horns all honking, and the announcer encouraging the crowd to their feet and their loudest. This was my first time getting to break though a finisher’s tape. 🙂

Published in the Grand Forks Herald. Photo credit to Dave Wallis / The Forum.

After a quick trip to the medical tent (how typical of me), I got to wait around as Nate came in to finish his first marathon in 3:20. It wasn’t the Boston qualifier he was hoping for, and he made the rookie mistake of going out a bit too fast (1:31 for the half), and paid for it in the last 6 miles. I am still really impressed by his finish, and now he can say he is a marathoner too! It was so much fun to have so many people up there doing Fargo along with me. My brother finished his first marathon in 3:47, my father-in-law finished his first marathon since 1989 in just under 5 hours  (and at least he still had a good time, even if he did have to walk the last 5 miles due to cramps). Plus Dr. Asp, Mark, Jake, Kenny in the marathon. Claire had an awesome race in the half marathon (I called her finish time within a second – genius coach? Or luck? :)). The Gustavus assistant coach Brenden won the 10k. It was so much fun to be a part of!

Jim, my father in law, had to walk the last 4 miles of the marathon because he would cramp every time he tried  to run.  I can’t imagine… this sign is fitting 🙂  Although… this is still during his “race”. I am working with him on his “racing” mentality!
Not used to this sort of thing…
The family (Jim, Karen and Jess are still out on the course).  Dad, Nate, Ben (back), Mary (Ben’s girlfriend), Mom.

1:37:59 for Claire in the half!  Not bad for someone who just decided to start running/training this January, right?!?

(weird that I oscillated so much between high 6:20s and high 6:10s.  Usually I’m more even than this – perhaps the turns/wind had something to do with this?)
6:21 – started to allow myself to open up.  Felt so strong and in control.
6:29 – started to not feel well. Sun had been out for the last 3 miles or so without cloud cover.
6:55 – Oh man.  Dizzy.  Lightheaded.  I didn’t care about much here other than putting one foot in front of the other. Focus on the biker ahead of you!
6:56 for .46 (course measured long by my Garmin)
= 2:50:49

Here’s my post from my first Fargo marathon.  Interesting that I mention shooting for the Trials back then… as a 2:58 marathoner (my first sub-3!).  Dream big!!

Interview after the race: http://www.valleynewslive.com/story/22288487/nicole-porath-wins-the-womens#.UZf946iiX9s.facebook

Good picture of me breaking the tape: http://www.grandforksherald.com/event/image/id/79612/headline/Nichole%20Porath,%20of%20Northfield,%20Minn.,%20is%20the%20womens%20division%20winner/
Can I email them to ask for a copy?  Would they actually give me a copy?  I wonder – I’d love to have it (already right click copied it…).

I’ll end this by saying that I know I have an extraordinary journey ahead of me in order to make that sub 2:43 standard this fall. I can’t even tell you how fun that sounds… having to be “all in” to chase some crazy “should be impossible” goal :).  If I’ve needed Team Nichole in the past, I will most definitely be relying them in the next 4.5 months.  As heavily as I ever have.  Please feel free to reach out – in any way. I always love comments here. And I know I have so many insightful readers who have provided me great advice and suggestions in the past.

But in the meantime, this week I’m going to allow myself to eat whatever I feel like, enjoy a drink or two, and just run easy – however long or short I feel like.  There will be plenty of all-in weeks ahead of me!!!!!

Oh – I’m meeting with Jerry tomorrow afternoon to strategize for Chicago.  Pretty sure there will be an excited-lets-start-training post shortly thereafter.  LOVE that part of the training cycle!!

Cookie coma, commence!

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  1. Great job! Good luck figuring out the overheating. I would never presume to give advice but I will say as someone who lives in the tropics it is tough to train and run in the heat.

  2. Awesome job!! I too have two breakfasts before I run a marathon. Any time I've felt dizzy/lightheaded, I'm pretty sure it was due to lack of fuel. You should share some of the things you do to mentally fight through the pain while running a marathon–unless they are secrets.

    1. I've worked with Dr. Asp since before my OTQ in 2011 and it's helped tremendously. He creates a CD for me before big races and I'll listen to it for the week or two before hand, essentially memorizing what he is saying. I have never been able to handle pain like the times I've worked with him, nor had my positive coping thoughts (things like "this is my race", "I control the pace") come to me so easily and powerfully. Check out my Grandma's '11 post if you want to read more. He also just wrote an article in Marathon in Beyond that gives a generic sample CD recording, word for word. The CD we make now is personalized with what works for me, but this would be a great one to start out with (and it's free if you can find a copy!).

  3. Awesome freakin race! It must be so cool to WIN a race and break the tape! My fingers are already crossed for good weather in Chicago for you 🙂 You do have a pretty great support team and I'm positive they will help you reach that sub 2:43 standard! Get it girl! And don't forget what an inspiration you are!

  4. Amazing race you had! Great to have been able to share the road with you and Nate last weekend – you are an inspiration, keep your mojo going – all the best in your journey to sub 2:43 i know you can do it!Best, Jen Wilcox

    1. So nice to see you!! I was just reminiscing about training for Fargo back in my Eagan days where we both wanted to break 3. I still think the course is long (1/4 mile by my watch this time) – you totally deserved it that day :(.

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