Erie Marathon 2015 Race Report

on Saturday, September 19, 2015 at 9:57 AM

To quickly summarize, I finished the Erie (Presque Isle) Marathon in 3:18:10, about 5 minutes slower than I would have liked so no BQ time, unless I can get my birthday changed on my ID to show that I'm actually 4 years older.

Took the day off on Friday and drove down.  I was hoping to leave midday and avoid rush hour, but didn't leave until about 3pm.  Who knew that rush hour begins at such an earlier time.  Crossed the border in Fort Erie on the Peace Bridge, the same bridge that I crossed during the Niagara Falls marathon last year.  I think I arrived at around 7pm or so.  I ended up staying at one of the closer hotels to the race site, which in hindsight, i probably didn't have to do since it's literally in middle of nowhere. Not much else to see or do in the area. If I had to do it again, I would have stayed more in "downtown" Erie, which had more eating options.  Saturday I spent driving around trying to find stuff, which was miserable because it rained all day. Not just light stuff but buckets of the stuff. I was worried about this carrying forward another day, which would have been a disaster.  I had to drive into the state park where the race takes place to pick up my kit and there was flooding on the roads. I felt sorry for the exhibitors at the kit pickup since it took place outside under tents on grass.  Even under the tents in some places, you had to stand in one-inch standing water.   Thankfully, the rain was forecast to go away by the following morning, but they were predicting a strong wind.

After picking up my kit, I was trying to find one of those gatorade drink bottles with the twisty spout on the top which I could use during the race.  I didn't bother to bring anything from up north since I had assumed they would have them.  I had to try a number of different place: Walmart, Target, K-mart, a few grocery stores and a pharmacy, nothing.  I eventually did find one in a dollar store of all places, where I had gone to buy some throw away gloves.

After getting that and a throw away rain poncho in case the rain didn't subside, I had to head back to the park for the pasta dinner, which wasn't what I thought it would be.  They offered it during registration and it was really cheap.  I realize why when I got there.  It was in a small pavilion that was outside. While there was protection from the rain, there wasn't protection from the wind which was still blowing around quite significantly.  Basically, the seating consisted of a bunch of picnic tables. You would grab your food, eat and leave.  No entertainment other than chatting with other people.  I was in and out in a little over 30 minutes I guess. Headed back to the hotel after to veg out and went to bed at about 10:30.

I had set my fitbit to wake me at 4:30am, which was good cause when I woke I noticed that the alarm clock in the room was blinking. I guess there had been a short power failure or something during the night. Hopefully no one doing the race had slept in because of it.

Ate my customary bagel with peanut batter, washed down with some water and gatorade at around 5am and left for the park at around 5:30am.  There were some traffic issues getting in and I wasn't parked until about 6:05 or so.  The temperature while driving into the park was a bit warmer than I would have liked. The thermometer in my car was saying that it was 17C, which is a bit warmer than the 13-14C, they were predicting and this was when it was still dark out.  While walking to the race start (should have brought a flashlight), all I could hear was the howling wind rustling through the trees. Not a good sign.  Arrived at the race start and did the portapotty lineup a few times to empty the system which was difficult, it being completely dark. Luckily I had my phone which provided some illumination. I did some light jogging but I wouldn't really call it a warmup. Moved into the corral with about 5 minutes to 7am which was the race start time and positioned myself just behind the 3:15 pacer. Then proceed to wait another 20 minutes or so just standing around as they delayed the start by 18 minutes. Glad I hadn't warmed up more. They played the Canadian and US anthems and then we were off.

First mile consisted of me trying to start off slow. As is typical, I wanted to avoid the HR spiking thing so I didn't want to get too far ahead of pace. The first little mile was on a fairly narrow road, and it was hard getting into the proper pace with the bunch of people.   According to the lap pace functionality of my watch, I quickly found myself falling behind pace and the 3:15 pacer moving ahead of me. I started to up the pace a bit and hit the first mile marker at

1 mile: 07:35

So 1 mile in and I'm already 10 seconds behind where I wanted to be, no problem. At this point, the crowd has thinned out so I decide to try and run the next few miles at the proper 7:22min/mile pace that I was aiming for using my polar M400 for lap pace feedback  I missed the 2nd mile marker, but hit the third at

3 mile: 14:51 (7:26 min/mile pace)

My watch had me doing 7:21 min/mile pace for the two miles which was the pace I was aiming for, but it seems that it was off compared to the actual splits.  I realized that this was going to put me into a bit of a hole if I kept bleeding off 5 seconds every mile.  At this point 4 miles in and I'm already 19 seconds behind where I wanted to be.  I started out the 4th mile kinda quick because I realized I was dropping behind, but thought I had dropped into a tad bit faster than goal pace to try and gain back a few seconds over the next few miles but then I hit the 4 mile marker at slightly faster than I wanted.

4 mile: 7:09

I'm not sure if this was accurate or not since my GPS pace was 7:19 which seems like a big difference.  I should mention that by this point I've run for about 30 minutes and my HR was acting normal.  It was averaging in the mid 160's which is what I'm guessing is around where my marathon pace HR should be so things are looking good.  In fact, I remember thinking around this time that this was going to be a good HR day since it hadn't spiked and I was more than 4 miles in.  Alas, it would not last, as the HR spiked during mile 5.  Since I knew from May that I could run pretty much the whole marathon distance with it spiking, I just continued on.

5 mile: 7:29

Mile 5 was a crappy split, even though my watch said I averaged 7:20 pace. The GPS on this polar watch is quite crappy and probably with it being worn on my left wrist facing the interior of the park with the trees, it was having a hard time figuring out my pace.

I decided I needed to make a a concerted attempt to catch back up to the 3:15 pace group. The reason for this was the wind. The strong wind that was coming off of Lake Erie was from the NW. The course is a two loop course and the way the course was laid out, the wind was going to be a head wind starting at about 9.5 miles and then again at the 22.5 miles mark.  The 3:15 group I could see in the distance was pretty big and I would need them to block the wind. The only problem was they were about 40 seconds ahead of me. 

Erie Marathon Course

 I spend the next few miles bumping up the pace.  With the crappy GPS, I needed to run a bit more of an effort level to  try and catch back up to them.

Mile 6: 7:17 (GPS pace of 7:15)
10k split: 45:53 (7:23 min/mile pace from start)
Mile 7: 7:07 (GPS pace 7:09)
Mile 8: 7:20 (GPS pace 7:14)
Mile 9: 7:33 (GPS pace 7:17)

I was still having some concerns with the GPS pacing which was inconsistent. By mile 7 I had caught back up to my pace band and was slightly ahead of where I wanted to be.  Mile 9 has the only "hill" of the course which is just a short incline up a small bridge  which then quickly drops back down again. It's a bit steep, but short.   The problem was that by mile 9, I was still a little bit behind the group. By the 10k mark I was 20 seconds behind and I was trying to catch up but I think they were pulling off splits that were faster than the 7:27 that they should have been aiming for so I wasn't gaining as much ground as I would have liked. I also couldn't bump up the pace that much more to try and catch them because I was concerned that my lack of LT runs this past summer wouldn't allow me to run much more faster than I already was without hindering my performance.  Bottom line was that by the 9.5 mile mark when the headwind started, I was not with the 3:15 group and had to struggle through the wind on my own.

Mile 10: 7:26
Mile 11: 7:30
Mile 12: 7:27
Half  Split 1:37:09 (7:25 min/mile pace from start)
Mile 14: 15:07 (2 mile average 7:33)

So these miles show the tale of the tape. With no group to block the wind, and everyone else around me starting to slow down, I had to fight through the wind on my own. The pace wasn't too bad, but the effort felt hard.  While I had caught back up to my pace band at mile 7, by the time I hit the half, I had already slipped back behind by a not too insignificant margin of  32 seconds.   Also the pace was feeling a tad tough. Usually, I pass the half and it should feel normal. Not like at the start of the race, but it shouldn't feel like a struggle, like it was at this point.  Now it could have just been because I had run for a few miles into a head wind, but I was pretty certain at this point that it was going to be hard for me to surpass the 3:13:50 that I ran back in May as it was going to require me to run a 30 second negative split for the second half and I was already having difficulty maintaining the required pace at this point, but I soldered on trying to hold pace and see how long I could go.

Mile 15: 7:24
Mile 17: 14:36 (7:18 pace average)
Mile 18: 7:53

I'm not sure what happened during mile 18 that slowed me down so much, but I think it could have been long since I'm pretty sure the 2 mile split before that where I supposed average 7:18 can't seem right so it must have been short.

Mile 19: 7:29
Mile 20: 7:36 (Official Split of 2:28:55, 7:27 pace from start)

So I got to the 20 mile timing mat  and with the 20 mile mark being the "half-way" point of the race, I knew that it just wasn't go to happen so I started backing off the pace since I knew the bridge hill and the wind were coming up.  This pace would have put me just over a 3:15 marathon, but with this race not being a double dipper that would qualify me for 2017, meeting a 3:15 qualifying time now was going to be meaningless to me since I already had a faster qualifying time from back in May.  Rest of the race went as follows.

Mile 21: 7:47
Mile 22: 7:58 (bridge hill)
Mile 23: 7:51 (start of windy portion)
Mile 24: 8:04
Mile 25: 8:10
Mile 26: 7:30
Miles 26.2: 1:57

I only stopped to walk once which was for a short bit during an aid station in mile 25 to make sure that I downed two cups of fluids since I had assumed that this was the last aid station for the race. Other than that, I ran the entire way. I was able to bump up the pace for the last mile or so just so that I could finish strong.

Final chip time of 3:18:10 which put me 202 overall and 31st in my age group. 

Yes, I'm a bit disappointed with the time, but not all races can be great.  I did think the temperature was a bit warmer than I would have liked.  I never really felt warm, but looking through the race pics, I see that my shirt was sweaty and I see a bunch of other people had removed their shirts.  I think the wind helped to cool you down, but we were still sweating and losing fluids.  I don't think I every got dehydrated but I think I was getting close to it by the end, thus why I had to stop to drink fluids during mile 25. Also I think the scrambling around the day before didn't help.  My fitbit shows I walked about 7k the day before the race and that didn't include the 2 mile shakedown run so maybe I was a bit more tired then I should have been on race day.

The post race support is pretty good. The mylar blanked, water, bananas, chocolate milk and subway sandwiches.  I hand around for a bit and got the obligatory post race photo with medal.

Don't mind the portapotties in the background!


So generally nice race. Lots of aid stations, once every mile and well stocked. The delay at the start was a bit unnerving because it undid any warmup you may have done.  The temperatures as I said were a tad warm and the wind was not pleasant. With a loop course, you would think that any headwind would be counteracted by a tailwind at some point, but it doesn't work like that on Presque Isle. When you're running into the headwind from the NW, you're running right by the lake. When the wind would theoretically be a tailwind, you're running on the other side of the peninsula where the interior of the park with it's trees block the effects of the wind. The course would have been perfect if it had been run in the reverse direction.Tailwind by the lake, headwind blocked by the trees.

Polar GPS and HR info and the course map is available here.  HR spiked at 32 minute mark about 4.2 miles in and lasted the whole race. My HR during the spiking portion was about 5 beats slower than it was back in May so maybe I could have run a bit faster cardio wise.

Some raw stats.

Mile Split Actual Time Time Ahead
of Goal
1 07:35 0:07:35 -0:00:12
3 14:52 0:22:27 -0:00:19
4 07:10 0:29:37 -0:00:07
5 07:29 0:37:06 -0:00:13
6 07:18 0:44:24 -0:00:09
7 07:07 0:51:31 0:00:07
8 07:21 0:58:52 0:00:08
9 07:33 1:06:25 -0:00:02
10 07:26 1:13:51 -0:00:05
11 07:30 1:21:21 -0:00:13
12 07:27 1:28:48 -0:00:17
14 15:07 1:43:55 -0:00:39
15 07:24 1:51:19 -0:00:41
17 14:36 2:05:55 -0:00:32
18 07:53 2:13:48 -0:01:02
19 07:29 2:21:17 -0:01:08
20 07:36 2:28:53 -0:01:22
21 07:47 2:36:40 -0:01:46
22 07:58 2:44:38 -0:02:22
23 07:51 2:52:29 -0:02:50
24 08:04 3:00:33 -0:03:32
25 08:10 3:08:43 -0:04:19
26 07:30 3:16:13 -0:04:27
26.2 01:57 3:18:10 -0:04:55

10k split:        45:53 (7:23 pace)
Half split:       1:37:09 (7:26 pace beteen 10k and half)
20 mile split:  2:28:55  (7:31 pace between half and 20M)
Finish:            3:18:10 (7:56 pace between 20M and finish)

So it looks like I will have to wait and see if my 70 seconds from May will be enough to get me into Boston for 2016.  Registration for us mortals will start on Monday so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

I have had some thoughts on maybe trying to do the Hamilton marathon in November so not to waste the summer of training and shoot for a BQ time for 2017 but that's a bit in the air. I guess I'll see if I get into Boston 2016 and then decide.


Robin said...

Congrats on another marathon!! Sorry you didn't make your goal but that's a fantastic result in the wind. Wind the one thing we can't really do much about...darn wind. Fingers crossed for your Boston registration this year.