Saturday, July 14, 2007

07/01/07 Swan Lake Marathon

The Swan Lake Marathon is held at (and organized by) a Mennonite church camp on the outskirts of Viborg, South Dakota. And right next to Swan Lake - though I don't think it is the one from the ballet. The first thing to note is that while Viborg may not be the absolute center of the middle of nowhere, it isn't too far away. The second thing to note is that Viborg rhymes with 'iceberg' and not 'cyborg'.

Last year, this marathon had about 25 people in it. I intended to do it as a double with Marathon to Marathon, but the course made it far too convenient for me to decide around M8 that I'd switch to the half. My stomach was really bothering me that day. About two months later, I got a second place ribbon for the half, which is really funny. Little races are always funny that way.

This year, they changed the date of race. So while people couldn't double it with M2M, it was held on a weekend that was otherwise seemingly marathon-free across the country. The consequence, of course, was that registration more than tripled... and lots of 50-staters descended on Viborg. The church camp allows folks to bunk in their cabins or camp. I think they filled everything up. I chose to stay elsewhere, but it looked like people had fun at camp :-).

Now, about that course. It's a shamrock - three different loops (start-> M4.5, M4.5->M13, and M13->finish) around the start/finish. The first two loops make up the course for the half, which is why it was so easy to bail last year. Most of the course is flat, and most of it is dirt. The section around Swan Lake is shaded by trees, and runners forget for a bit about all those corn fields. But only a bit. The rest of the race, except for a few blocks in Viborg, is all about corn. And corn? Corn provides no shade whatsoever.

Last year, the race started at 6:30 or 7... I don't recall. I do recall that it got warm and then HOT quickly. This year, they moved the start up to 6a to help with the heat. Unfortunately for me, my hotel was 45 minutes away. It was a very early morning for Island Boy.

At 6a, we said a little prayer... cmon, it *IS* a church camp... and then off we went. I was coming off of two really awful weekends where I had pushed myself too hard trying to hit 3:30. My plan this week was to run a smarter race: run evenly and try to land a 3:45.

I caught my friend Amy around M1, so we chatted for awhile about various things. Amy is a breast cancer survivor and one of the faster Maniacs I know. I usually don't get the opportunity to run with her, and I managed to do it twice in three weekends - we ran a few miles together at Estes Park.

We ran by corn. We ran through Viborg. We commented on the gal in front of us running in a bikini, like I usually only see on really fast marathoners and triathletes. We ran by more corn. It was starting to get warm.

At M13, we passed my point-of-no-return. No bailing this year. Our time was right around 1:52; pretty close to what I wanted. At M15, I stopped to potty. Amy is really good about running negative splits, and I am not. I was able to see Amy ahead of me after I finished my business, but over the next few miles, she got smaller and smaller.

Corn. So much corn.

By M19, the heat was getting to me and the inevitable slowdown started. A few people passed me... including 3 teens running their first marathon. It was fun to see them working together to get to the end. At M23, I caught them at the aid station and made the mistake of saying, "Just a 5k left." The icy death stares I received convinced me that I had just been that guy. At M24, we went through a brief out-and-back and a guy in front of me yelled, "HOW OLD ARE YOU??" Er... 41. He thought I was gunning for his age group position. Not hardly. It would turn out that this guy is 56, so I was no threat even if I had been trying to catch him.

By M25, two of the teens had left the third behind. She was still in front of me, and she kept looking back. I'm not exactly sure why, but I suspect that she really REALLY wanted to beat the creepy old man who had made the stupid comment. She would succeed.

Around the corner, up the hill, and I was done. I didn't make 3:45... it was 3:49. Still though, I felt really good and I was close to my goal. Although a 1:52/1:57 split isn't great, it was way better than some of my recent races.

Amy did indeed run a negative split, and she was the first place overall woman.

The dude that thought I was trying to catch him? He ran a 3:45:00 exactly. I should have tried to catch him :-).

Incidentally, for a little race in the middle of nowhere that tripled in size, the organizers did an amazingly good job with it. I would seriously consider making this an annual excursion if it wasn't so far away. I really liked it.

Next up: it has come and gone. The dreaded Seafair Marathon, one of my two cursed races. Did I break the curse? Check back in soon. Be there. Aloha.

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