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The Other Ben's Birkie Trail Marathon Race Report

I think I am expected to write something on the Gravel Conspiracy, and I will, but this is a much easier report to write so you get it first.

Obviously, the other other Ben covered this first with a good write-up.  Mr. Ski's Report  I'll have to agree with a lot of what he wrote.  Including not wanting to let people know about the Two Lakes Campground.  That place is sweet.  The whole drive in there I was eyeing up the sweet rolling and winding backwoods Wisconsin pavement thinking roller skiing.

Since Ben covered the ambiance of the day I'll focus on my race.  First I'll start with signing up for this silly thing.  I got some email from the Birkie about the Birkie Warrior series.  If you did all three of the events at the longest distance (Birkie, Birkie Tour, and Trail Marathon) you could get a sweet jacket.  Prior to that email I was pretty adamant I had no interest in running a marathon anytime soon.  In fact I had told Ben repeatedly I wasn't going to join him for the Eau Claire marathon in the spring nor the Twin Cities in the fall.  Since the Tour was cancelled this year all you had to do was the 50k ski and the marathon.  I was a marathon away from a jacket so it got my interest.  But I stalled.

And then Ben procrastinated and Twin Cities filled up before he registered.  Then something like this happened.

Yup, Dallas, that is what friends are for.  So I signed up.  As one of my comments indicates two weeks ago was the Sasquatch 25K, last weekend was the Gravel Conspiracy, and this weekend the Birkie Trail Marathon.  I have been busy.

I will note that my training has not been optimal.  The 25K was the longest run I have done since 2005.  In the last six months I have exceeded 10 miles three times, including that 25K.  Ideal training plan for a marathon on the Birkie trail?  I think not.

So going in, I set three goals for myself given that I was still recovering from the GC, I wasn't trained properly, and I wasn't sure what to expect.

Goal C - Finish, not hating life.

Goal B - Finish under 5:00.  About half the field managed that last year.

Goal A - Finish under 4:22.  This is a 10:00/mile.  I finished the Sasquatch 25K with 9:34/mile and was DONE.

I never wrote it down, but another goal was to continue my season long competition with Adam.  Given the length of the race though I really thought this would be all about competing with myself.

My race strategy was pretty simple.  Go easy until 13.1, evaluate, continue going easy until 20, then think about what was left.

Great weather, blah blah blah, see Ben's report.  Off the line I just started easy.  I really thought I should run with Ben, Eric, and Seth for a while.  But I didn't.  Sadly it was just after that picture Ben posted that I left them, though it wasn't really a sprint.

So I ran easy, power walked the hills, grabbed a partial gu and water or heed at every aid station and just plugged away.  Somewhere around mile 8.5 G failed me again.  G is my Garmin 305 if you haven't been following along.  He is on his third battery now.  He shut off mid-Minneapolis Duathlon.  He turned back on and started tracking again and after consulting a few other runners I determined I only lost about 1.5 minutes.  Sadly, he blew away all of the actual data from before mile 8.5.

Anyhow, it was pretty lonely out there.  I only saw maybe 10 people between mile 2 and OO.  I got to OO maybe 5 minutes after the half marathon started.  Not too long after OO the trail was filled with people.  Reminiscent of my Birkie ski from this past February I was passing people constantly.  Thankfully passing people running up a hill is much easier than when the trail is edge to edge with people herringboning.  I also caught up to Adam just before OO, chatted with him a while, and then continued on without him shortly after OO.

So at the half way point I was well under my A goal with a half split of about 2:04.  This was a little concerning, and yet I had thoughts in my head that were very positive.  This isn't too bad, 13 miles doesn't scare me (note I was 2 miles from my longest run in 8 years), I think I can go faster than this, could I break 4 hours?, could I set a personal best (3:55 from when I was 19 and scrawny)?

So I gave it a shot.  Not that there aren't any hills getting to OO from the south, but things really start climbing after that, and yet I gave it a go.  Things are a little blurry at this point.  My legs were starting to hurt, but the mile posts kept clicking by.  I remember passing 10 miles to go (my longest run in 8 years).  I wasn't scared.  I remember passing 6 miles to go and I wasn't scared.  At three to go I was.  I was on track to break 4.  Not quite on track to set a PR.  But my legs HURT.  That last 5k was really tough.

But I managed to pull it off and finished with 3:59:05.  I negative split that bad boy by 9 minutes.  I completely destroyed all of my goals.  I was blown away.  What would have happened if I had actually trained properly for this?  What was wrong with me at 19?

In all it was a great race.  36 hours later and I can walk fairly normally though I'm still cringing at the stairs and I've got some solid aches and pains.  I'm definitely already thinking about doing this again next year.

I've got this coming weekend off and then it is the Mammoth Gravel Classic 100 (you are doing that right?).  Then, ski season.  Only 152 days until the Birkie!

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