This is the second part of my recap of the Mitten Challenge. For part one be sure to check out my recap of the Wisconsin Marathon.
We arrived in Kalamazoo much later Saturday night than we anticipated, not getting to our hotel until almost 10 pm. Needless to say we were pretty exhausted from the day before. Touring that Jelly Belly warehouse will really wear you out. We checked into the hotel, got in our rooms, and started to lay out all of our materials for Sunday’s marathon. This was when trouble struck me, my Garmin Forerunner 205 would not charge. It still had half a battery charge left after running the Wisconsin Marathon that morning so I thought it may make it through Kalamazoo too so I tried not to worry to much over it.
Sunday morning we got up at around 5 to get ready for the 8 am start, we weren’t exactly sure where the start line was at so we wanted to give ourselves plenty of time to get there. We went downstairs to get in our van when we were asked if we were waiting on the race shuttle. “There’s a shuttle?” After a quick change of plans we loaded the school bus and were taken down to the starting area, about 6 miles from where we stayed. The race director really strived to take care of the people running the Mitten Challenge. We had our own tent set up with our packets and bibs, free meal tickets for post race, and an easy process to get checked in on race morning. They even organized a pre race photo with all the Mitteners.
I haven’t really studied the course map so I’m not sure where the different courses overlap, but I really like the different start times for each event. The marathon runners started at 8 am, the half marathon at 8:20, the 10k at 8:30, & the 5k at 8:40. It’s one of the few races I’ve been at where it doesn’t completely thin out as in the early miles as different races peel off. The first 5 miles were pretty straight forward with not a lot of action & a handful of spectators scattered along the sidelines. I was trying to take it easy in the first few miles, not sure how my legs would hold up after a marathon the day before. I was trying to stick with the 4 hour pace group, but they were moving at around an 8:30 minute/mile pace which is closer to a 3:45:00 marathon finish. I imagine they were planning on being slower in the back half of the race, but I was not feeling up to it in the early miles here. I was running along with Aaron & Jacob for a bit as we each started to shake out our small aches from Saturday. At Mile 5 we entered the campus of Western Michigan University, home of the Broncos. I had to stop for the character photo.
Miles 8 – 12 were comprised of one big loop down a wide lanes street and around what appeared to be an Agricultural Science department of the University, then back out to where it came. Along this return stretch I saw Shannon running along a handful of miles behind me. A quick shout out and a high five I was heading out to take on the back half of the course. I crossed the halfway mark at 1:58:56, then made sure to swing by the Mile 13 bacon stop. BACON!
The next stretch of the race went through mostly residential areas, Mile 18 ran down the cart path of a golf course and mile 19 was along a wooded river side pathway. I started to really feel the fatigue set in as I approached mile 20. I checked my watch, beeping on its final chunk of battery and did a little math. I crossed the Mile 20 mark at 3:05:09, I knew that if I dug deep and ran the last 10k at 9:00 min/mile pace I could maybe finish in just under 4 hours. Maybe. I dug in and decided to see how it worked out. 20 quality miles was way more than I expected to run that morning and was excited just knowing I was about to finish. I did some run walk intervals at 5 minute to 30 seconds ratio to keep the legs moving. I was falling below the 9 min pace and saw that I wouldn’t make it in under 4 hours, then I came around and saw the hill waiting for me at Mile 22. It was time to walk the hill, abandon the time goal, and start asking for beer. Lucky me the house I was passing going up the hill had a supply of red solo cups and Fat Tire to fill it with. I proceeded to walk through the next mile and a half, stopping to refill my cup once thanks to a nice man and his wife.
Once my cup was empty I decided to run in the last 5k, the long walk help really refresh the legs. The last 5k was through a beautiful wooded area pathway around a lake and back out towards the finish area. Around Mile 24 a guy ran up to me and told me he was running his first marathon, he seemed to be having a rough time keeping his head in the game at the end so I stuck with him to the finish.
As we passed the final water station area I asked the volunteers for a sandwich, they had a platter out from Subway. I was thankful for the food and put it in my empty cup for the last mile. As we came around the final turn I the finish I told the other runner to get up there and finish strong and that I didn’t want to mess up his finish photo with my antics. I then proceeded to pull out my sandwich and walk the last 200 feet to the finish while enjoying a turkey club on wheat, crossing the finish line with a time finish time of 4:27:45.
Post race was quick paced, I grabbed my gear bag, passed on the $5 beer (biggest complaint about the entire race event), and headed straight to the bus to was back to the hotel for a shower, lunch at a local brewery, and the ride back to Chicago where I stayed Sunday night and got to go to Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs take on the Cardinals in Sunday Night Baseball. The perfect way to wrap up an incredible weekend.
Overall: 290 out of 515
Place in Gender: 204 out of 317
Place in Age Group (25-29): 20 out of 30