Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Rainy Sunday - 2011 Prairie Fire Wichita Marathon - Race Report

(Oops, I'm a few weeks late with this race report.  Sorry 'bout that.)

I had been looking forward to running the Prairie Fire Wichita Marathon for over a year. The race was exactly 364 days after last year's Chicago Marathon, so from the beginning it was going to be where I achieved my 16 marathons in 16 states in one year goal. The race...really wasn't my best. I went in wanting to take it easy and run under 3:45, because I needed to pace the Des Moines Marathon one week later. Instead of nice and easy, it was one of those long runs where nothing is really wrong, but you're tired and just want it to end with about 8 miles to go. Plus, the constantly worsening rain really didn't improve my day. Even though it was a tough day for me, I still held on to finish just under my 3:45 goal, so I was happy with the outcome.

Overall I think this is a great race that could be one of my favorites if I felt better. The perks are great:  two shirts, nice medal, good post-race food, good aid stations, mostly flat course, etc. Unfortunately, it rained through most of the race and I just didn't have my best run. Maybe I'll have to come back next year...maybe they will need a pacer!

Pre Race

I woke up crazy early on Saturday morning in Austin to start the 8 hour drive to Wichita. The drive went by pretty quickly, despite my 5000 bathroom stops (I was well hydrated) and fighting through two sets of college football game traffic (Texas/Oklahoma in Dallas and Oklahoma State/Kansas in Stillwater).

Immediately after crossing the Kansas border, I hit a big rain storm, something I hadn't seen in Texas for about 5 months.  Also something I wasn't thrilled to see going into a marathon.

What I learned this weekend:  Kansas=Rain
This storm looked much more imposing in person.
Most of my giant extended family lives in Wichita, so I was able to stay with my cousins and their adorable daughters the night before the race. My cousin Mike was running his first marathon, so we headed to the race expo together and bonded over talk of chafing, hydration and carb loading that afternoon. The expo was very small but fine for a smaller race. Packet pickup was quick and easy. That evening we headed to my aunt and uncle's house to see more family and enjoy a delicious home cooked pasta dinner. The rain never really stopped all day and became heavier through the night, a sign of things to come on race day.

The morning of the race, I woke up and ate my usual breakfast. Mike and I headed to the start and parked nice and close with plenty of time to spare before the race. I love that about smaller races! We wandered to the start line and I chatted with a few Marathon Maniacs and 50 Staters while waiting for the race to begin.

The Race

Miles 0-5 - City streets
I felt good and started out a little too fast but generally on a good comfortable pace. There wasn't any rain (yet), so it was actually a bit hot and humid. The course was mostly on wider city streets during this portion, so it wasn't too crowded until the narrower neighborhood streets from mile 4 until the half/full split just before mile 5.

Miles 5-13 - Too fast
I was feeling too good through the neighborhoods, which provided nice scenery and cheering crowds. The course was mostly on streets with some portions on sidewalks.  Most of my miles were around 8:10 in this portion, which I thought I would be able to hold through the day. A little misting rain started to fall, which was nice and cool at the time. My only complaint through this portion was that the narrow sidewalk portions made it difficult to pass other runners.

Mile 13-17 - Back through the city
I still felt good on the return trip across town on Douglas. The rain was getting heavier, but I was still holding a good pace and feeling strong.

Miles 17-26.2 - Uh oh
It hit me around mile 17 that I was pretty worn out. The last 9 miles of the race wander through pretty parks, neighborhooods, and Cowtown. I wish I could have enjoyed the views more, but instead I was mostly ducking my head in the rain and just wanting to get to the finish. The later miles of the course also lacked crowds, which isn't really surprising with the rain. The whole time I kept an eye on my watch to make sure my slowing pace would still keep me under my 3:45 goal time, and I was absolutely thrilled when I finally saw the finish line approaching.

Elevation from my Garmin, overall a pretty flat race.
(click to enlarge)

Post Race
Mike had a much better race than me, finishing a few minutes under his goal time of 4:30 and still feeling good after his first marathon.  Now I just need to convince him to get hooked on running marathons like me!  

The Wichita post-race party was impressive. There were lots of food choices, including Pizza Hut and Taco Bell (yummmmmmm...don't judge me), a free beer tent, a live band, and lots more. Unfortunately, it was raining quite hard and I was feeling a little worn out and cold, so I drank my free beer, but the shivering kept me from enjoying it as much as I would have liked.

I was much happier after a hot shower back at my cousins' house and a Chipotle feast. Then it was time to hit the road back to Fort Worth for the night, and on to Austin in time for work Monday morning. Talk about a jam packed weekend!

Nerdy Race Statistics:
Garmin Distance - 26.35 miles
Garmin Average Pace - 8:34/mile
Garmin Calories Burned - 3748 calories
Official Splits
MileTimeSplit PaceTotal Pace
No middle split mats in this race.

Garmin pace per split:
Started too fast and slowed toward the end.
Oops, also forgot to stop my watch for a while after I finished.
(click to enlarge)

Definitely thought I felt good at the beginning and started out faster than I should have. Slowly wore myself out and struggled through the last several miles. Not the ideal way to do it, but I came in ahead of 3:45, right where I wanted to be.


I love the long-sleeved, technical finisher shirt they handed out after the race. We were also given a bright yellow, cotton participant shirt in our packets, which is a nice bonus. Also, the running/flaming rabbit logo for this race is awesome, and made for a very cool medal.

Likes and Dislikes
  • Post-race - As I mentioned before: lots of food options, free beer, finisher shirts, live band, etc. Too bad it was so rainy and cold!
  • Course variety - Parks, city, residential...the course offers a bit of every piece of Wichita. There's even a run through the middle of Cowtown.
  • Mile 22 - It measured 1.3 miles on my Garmin and took over 11 minutes. Not cool late in the race when people are trying to hold onto a certain pace.
  • Weather - Rain is better than heat, but I'm picky.
  • Split mats - No official splits except the finish?  It seems like they could throw in at least a half marathon split.  That way I could see how much slower I went on the second half!
  • Sidewalks - The narrow sidewalk portions of the race make it awkward to pass other runners.

Race Costs
Race Entry - $68
Flights - $0
Hotel - $40 (cheap motel in Fort Worth to break up the drive home.)
Rental Car - $0
Gas - $160
Total - $268

Well under my $500 budget. 1100 miles of driving and a marathon makes for a tiring weekend though.

25 Total Marathon or Longer Races
21 States
16 out of 16 Marathons (or Longer) in 16 States in One Year (Woohoo, goal accomplished!!!)
6 Marathon Maniac Stars (Osmium Level)

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