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Mullin's Gandy Half Marathon Race Report


As much as I had an A race this fall, this was it.  If you know me, my real A race is the Birkie, so this is just a step along the way.  But, I figured I should make this a big step.

Last year I had planned on running the half here until my less than desired Birkie full marathon result resulting in a switch to run the full here two weeks later.  I ended up setting my marathon PR by over 27 minutes so it was a big success.

That success didn't come without a price though.  I spent the next week afterwards with plenty of issues I won't go into details on here.  The end result though was that I did not have any real desire to come back and try to repeat this year.  Thus the plan to actually race the half.

If you've been following along with my last few running race reports I've been working on pacing strategies based on heart rate.  I've been fine tuning things over the course of the Sasquatch Dash Finale (13.5 miles), O'Brien 10 miler, and the Birkie Trail Half Marathon.  I've upped the effort at each race and found I still had something in the tank at each one.

The big catch with all of my prep races was that they were trail races.  Lots of hills both up and down making the effort variable.  The Gandy is comparatively flat and was going to require a very steady output of effort.

The updated plan for the Gandy was:

First 6.55 miles:

  1. HR 171-172
  2. Run my own race
Second 6.55 miles:
  1. Begin increasing effort steadily
  2. Run by feel
  3. Start racing those around me
While I didn't intend to taper very hard, I tapered more than I needed to.  I skied for an hour on Tuesday with some short hard efforts and went for an easy run on Thursday.  That was it.  Being worn out shouldn't be an excuse.

The temps were great for the race around 50 degrees at the start.  Unfortunately there was a very stiff wind from the south that was going to make the return trip from Frederick challenging.


Marathon Start.  Photo Credit: Ben Jonjak
I lined up in the second or third row and on the horn we were off.  Pretty quickly the field thinned out at the front.  Jim Kelley was leading the way with two guys hot on his heels.  Joe Jensen and I were holding down fourth/fifth through about the first mile.  That first mile ticked off in 6:52 which is exactly on pace for a 1:30 half marathon and my HR was right around target and I thought things were looking good.

Jim decided things had gone out too slow and accelerated at about the first mile marker.  And the field went with him.  As I said, I was right around my HR target so I throttled my effort and watched as the first three guys moved ahead, then Joe moved on, then a few people passed me, then Dan Undem passed me, then a few more people passed me.

I was committed to racing my race though.  My HRs were right on target so I continued to keep things in check despite being discouraged that the field was moving away.  What was more discouraging was the splits also started slowing down almost immediately.  By mile 5 I had a 7:48 mile which was almost a minute per mile slower than a 1:30 finish.

Adam Lushanko wanted to be sure he was mentioned in the report, so here is your paragraph Adam.  Adam is prepping for Mankato Marathon this weekend.  He says that is his A race, so he was going to come do this for fun.  Right off the line he shot in front of me to say he was winning.  He shortly then said the fun was over and he was going to drift back and just have a fun run.  By mile one he was back again.  A little later he said he was going to drop off, and then less than a mile later he was back again.  This happened repeatedly all the way to Frederick.  I hope he did eventually save some energy because he still has to race this weekend.  All the while I was working on focusing on my own race.  I had a plan I was executing and I was doing my best to not let myself be distracted.

Approaching the turnaround I gauged my gap to the runners in front of me as they were heading back for Luck.  There were 11 of them.  I didn't estimate the leaders, but I think Dan Undem had roughly 3 minutes on me and Joe Jensen and a small group were around 2.

Some of the guys up the trail ahead of ahead of me.  Yes, the guy pushing the double stroller was ahead of me.  He finished fourth.  Photo Credit: Charlie Strantz
At the turn I started executing phase two of my strategy and started upping the effort.  I was feeling OK at this point.  Some of my earlier sore legs feelings were gone and I was aerobically fine and just in the running groove.

There were two guys just up the trail and it wasn't long before I caught the first one.  As I passed him I saw the next person pull up to walk so I encouraged the guy I was passing to go with and get the next guy.  After those first two passes, other than the stream of runners coming the other way, there was a lot of open trail ahead of me.  I cheered and high fived friends coming the other way.  For a little while I thought maybe 10th was where I was going to finish because the gap was too great to anyone else.

The higher effort was starting to feel like it was higher effort to.  When you start doing the mental math of how much longer you have to run and start wondering if you can keep the effort up that long you know you are starting to push it.

Somewhere around mile 8.5 I caught another long enough straightaway that I could see the next set of guys up the trail from me.  A split check against them told me I was gaining ground.  They were something around a minute ahead of me.  That was a good sign since just two miles before I had estimated them to be about 2 minutes up on me.

I kept at it trying to keep the effort high, but not pushing harder than necessary to catch them and blow up.  I kept checking splits against the patches of sun light and the gap was steadily decreasing.  Somewhere between mile 9 and 10 I started over taking runners.  One at a time I would catch one and we would grunt our good jobs and then I would continue on looking up the trail to the next runner.

I could see that one of the guys was making good ground himself and was making passes.  He pretty much seemed out of touch.  Somewhere past mile 10, with under 5k to go, we found the section of trail lined right up with the wind.  I caught one guy and ran right behind him for probably 100 meters before making the pass just to take a little break from the wind.

It was right around mile 11 that the doubt about my effort level was really kicking up.  The urge to slow down was increasing rapidly.  Any confidence in catching anyone else was fading rapidly.  I thought maybe I had pushed too hard too soon and I was going to blow-up spectacularly.

Not looking too bad considering how much I wanted to be done here around mile 12.  Photo Credit: Ben Jonjak
The stretch from the starting line to Butternut takes FOREVER, the whole time thinking that you are going to turn around and traverse the whole distance again on Main St.  Somehow I managed to keep the effort level high despite hints of nausea.  Unbelievably I was still making ground on one more guy.  As Paul Pedersen directed me onto Butternut he told me to "follow that guy" who I had managed to pull within about 10 meters of.

Shortly after turning onto Main Street I pulled up next to the guy and after an exceptionally short and incoherent grunt of good job I continued on down Main Street in hopes that the guy wouldn't kick and pass me back.

Looking at the map after the race, the run down Main Street appears to be just over a third of a mile.  On race day I'm pretty sure it was well over a mile.  My "kick" was pretty anemic compared to the last few running races.  Not non-existant.  Looks like I managed close to a 6:30 pace for the last quarter of a mile.  I was verging on puking down the straight away though.

There is a more appropriately pained expression pushing for the finish line.  Photo Credit: Gopher State Events

I finished with a time of 1:36:18, sixth overall, third in the M30-39 age group.

I was honestly hoping to have a little faster finish time.  I had been doing a series of 3k time trials this summer that were suggesting I was pushing closer to 1:30.  But that is the problem with estimating times from other efforts, they are just equivalent performances assuming adequate training.  I have not been exclusively run focused nor have I been doing many long runs.  So this was really what I said, a HOPE that I could run faster.

Ignoring the time, I am really happy with the race.  I had a plan that I executed nearly to perfection.  From mile 1 to mile 6 my average HR was 172.7 so just a touch above my target.  From there I picked up the effort and when I got to the finish line I was just hanging on.  There wasn't anything left in the tank for a sprint and I hadn't yet quite got to the point of blowing up and fading.

As you can see I managed to negative split the run by about a minute.  I still have to say that passing people at the end of a race is way more fun that staggering in as people go streaming by.

So I'm definitely happy with my performance.  A pretty dialed race execution and as always, room to fine tune engine.

One last quick note that this is a PR for 10 mile and half marathon since I resumed being reasonably fit back in 2009.  And as a matter of fact, every distance between 10 mile and 26.2 miles have been PRd at the Gandy now.

Race Review

In its second year, the Gandy was even better than the first.  I'm not sure how much it grew, but it definitely felt bigger this year.  Everything I saw ran super smoothly.  Aid stations were well staffed.  All the volunteers were friendly.  I had a great time cheering on my friends running and visiting with runners after the race and spectating the marathon finish.  This is definitely a race worth putting on the calendar.

What's Next

I think I am currently only signed up for two races.  The Icebox 480 and the Birkie.  I will likely do a road 5k on Thanksgiving since it starts less than a mile from my house and I'm curious where my 5k fitness is at.

I signed up for the Icebox on a whim really.  I have been thinking the "see how far you can run in a set amount of time" format sounded interesting.  I saw a flier for the Icebox a month ago, but when Jim Thanig signed up that was enough of a kick in the pants to sign up myself.  This is going to be a low key race.  Goal one is to not get hurt.  Two is probably to set an all time distance PR (50k).  Beyond that I'm just hoping to have fun.

Obviously I'll be doing more ski racing before the Birkie, but I haven't signed up yet.  I'm sure I'll do some of the early season shorter stuff, maybe an Elm Creek Wednesday night or two.  I will also be in for a few of the marathons before.  Maybe SISU, maybe Seeley, maybe City of Lakes, maybe Vasaloppet.

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