After the Jacksonville Bank Marathon on December 28, we had originally planned on having Marla run “The Duel” in Wichita Falls in late January, but Marla wanted another couple of weeks of training. While I didn’t think I’d be ready for another sub-3 attempt at “The Duel” and I had originally planned to pace Marla towards a 3:35 effort, pushing our next race back another 3 weeks also gave me time to get some solid training in between Jacksonville Bank and Mississippi River, so this would be a race for the both of us.
After bonking in the 2nd half of Jacksonville Bank (mostly due to heat), I made a deliberate plan to go out more conservatively at Mississippi River. I knew that I wouldn’t have any problem running a 3:04 on a relatively even or negative-split effort, so I went into Mississippi River with a 3:04 effort as my default option. Only if conditions were suitably cool and I felt right would I push Mississippi River for a sub-3 attempt. My plan of attack was to go out at a 7:00 pace in the first 3-5 miles, then pick up the pace to a 6:55 and see how I felt. Only if that felt easy would I then pick up to a 6:45 pace and go for broke.
Marla & I left Brackettville on Thursday afternoon and drove to my brother’s for the night at Millican (near College Station). On Friday, we spent the day driving from Millican to Greenville, MS. We arrived at Greenville for packet pickup in their mall, then checked into the Econo Lodge. We secured a late checkout so that we could shower after the race and leave clothes, etc, in the room (as it turned out, we found out the next morning that the external lock on our motel room didn’t work, and we had to load up the car at the last minute). We did get a pretty solid night’s sleep, and woke up Saturday early ready to run.
The weather forecast all week was for lows in the 30s and highs in the 60s. It was awfully nice for a change to have the weather forecast hold up. We awoke early at 5 am, had a light breakfast that consisted of applesauce and a Cliff Bar chased by Gatorade. Temps on the car’s thermometer read 35 in town and 33 at the river for loading the buses. We parked on the river side of the levee, then loaded the buses at 6 am for the shuttle over to Lake Chicot State Park and the starting line. Arrived at the starting line around 7:15, took care of porta-potty issues, then stood around keeping warm at the bonfires that were burning. Lined up with the other 206 marathoners just before 8, did the national anthem, pledge of allegiance, and a prayer. Saw the two wheelchair racers off promptly at 8, then everyone else started a few minutes after.
At the start of the race, as usual I started out a little quickly, but reined myself back and let about a fifteen or twenty runners get out in front of me. Miles 1-5 were on a narrow-but straight county road bordering Lake Chicot. There was a bit of shade and a light breeze running into our faces. My first mile ended up being a 7:03 – better a touch slow than a lot too fast. I overcorrected in mile 2 by a little bit (6:58) then settled into a solid 7:00 mile for the third. I was feeling pretty good already, and thought I might as well start picking up my pace a little, so I aimed for a 6:55 for mile 4 and ended up with a 6:53. Mile 5 I kept at it for a 6:51. At this point I felt really good, so I thought I’d try out a few miles in the 6:40s. At about mile six, our route joined with a major highway, and we ran on the shoulder for about the next fourteen miles or so, including our only elevation change as we went up and over the beautiful bridge over the Mississippi River. I held in the 6:40s from mile 6-13, with only mile 14 above 6:50 as I went up onto the Mississippi River bridge. After crossing the bridge, our route turned to the northeast and I began to pick up the pace a bit, dropping into the lower 6:40s and upper 6:30s for the next few miles. I was finally picking off other runners with regularity. I’d actually been chasing a couple running together since about mile 5 or so, and finally caught them around mile 19 or so. At about mile 20, we turned off the highway onto city streets. This added a little bit of winding but not too much. What it did add was some much appreciated shade – despite the temps in the lower 50s it was bright and sunny and I was beginning to get hot from the sustained effort in the low 6:40s. At this point, my watch and the mile markers were off by 0.2-0.3 per mile, so I was estimating how fast I’d have to run to go under 3 hours. It was looking like keeping my splits under 6:55 would do the trick. Mile 24 was a 6:50, mile 25 run at 6:55, and mile 26 at 6:53 . . . but at this point with 0.2 to go, I knew it was going to be close – that I had cut my margin to fine. As I sprinted across the last 0.2, passing one more runner, I crossed the finish line and checked my watch . . . 3:00:12! (officially, by the chip time, it was 3:00:11). I had cut things too close, and had I sustained the 3:48 I had been running in miles 22-23, I would have succeeded.
Regardless of missing the coveted sub-3 time, it turned out that I finished 9th overall and was the outright winner of the Master’s Division. Yes, I was disappointed to miss the sub-3 I had been shooting for these past several races, but I did what I set out to do – I ran a negative split race, didn’t hit the wall, and broke the 3:05 “open age group” Boston Qualifying time.
Shoes: I ran in Merrell Bare Access Ultras, size 10. This is supposed to be a hybrid/trail shoe, but it runs like a soft-soled road shoe. Like the rest of the Bare Access line I’ve run in (2’s and 3’s) this one worked out just fine for me, although I probably should be running in 10.5s.
Shorts: I ran in my stand-by 3” split shorts from Adidas. No problems at all with tried and true shorts that have been with me for 4 previous races.
Shirt: I wore a new long-sleeve Haida print tech shirt from InknBurn. Pretty much perfect for the first half of the race with temps below 45, but I did get a little hot later in the race. Not too hot, and once back in the shade in town, it worked out pretty well.
Compression: CWX calf sleeves were worn in order to help keep my twinged calf from November in order. No issues with calf pain at all.
Socks: Injinji medium weight no-show toe socks – same socks I’ve been running in for several years.
Fuel: 3x Apple/Cinnamon Hammer Gels, one taken at mile 7, 13, and 19. I also ate Gummi Worms every 2-3 miles. I took water and Gatorade from aid stations every few miles. I started with every other aid stations (every 2 miles) but eased off in the middle of the course to every third aid station as I began to feel a little sloshy. After mile 20, I just powered through the aid stations, figuring that none of the water or Gatorade would get out of my digestive system and into my bloodstream until after the race.
Hat: Marathon Maniacs classic hat. Very comfortable. Great icebreaker to talk to folks before the race.
Glasses: Custom Oakley Flak Jackets with Red Iridium Lenses that I’ve run in since January 2014. Worked great, as usual.
Watch: Garmin 610. Worked great, although recorded my distance as 26.5 despite me running tangets.