Race Report: Sioux Falls Marathon
To say that I’ve been looking forward to the beginning of the fall race season would be an understatement! The planning and thought I’ve put into selecting and training for these races (as evidenced by the myriad of previous posts) is evidence of that excitement. So, when we left home on Saturday morning for the drive up to Sioux Falls, I was extremely excited! The drive up through northwestern Iowa was actually far more beautiful than I anticipated. Both the beautiful epicurean and I were left wondering if we were still in Iowa, or the hills of Ireland? The scenery, along with delightful company, made the 4.5 hour drive go by rather quickly.
We arrived in Sioux Falls and headed straight to packet pickup. The race had everything set up at the local Scheels Sporting Goods store, which was very convenient. I ended up also trying on a few pairs of minimalist shoes while I was there, and making a choice on the shoe I plan to try (more on this in a future post, have no fear!). Pick-up was very smooth, and the race seemed very well-organized. We headed back to the hotel to check-in, and then out to find a pre-race dinner. At this point, we had skipped lunch, so we were both rather hungry. Thus, our patience was thin and we didn’t explore much before settling on eating at Old Chicago. As we were driving around town, we kept seeing small casinos on every block. They were no bigger than a McDonalds and they gave “sketchy” new meaning. We couldn’t help but be fascinated by the sheer numbers! The closest number I could find was 79 within city limits. They all look rather sad, and I’m guessing there is a city ordinance of some sort to explain it but I couldn’t find it. Needless to say, I initially dubbed Sioux Falls as a culinary black hole! I would later, while running, notice parts of the city we missed, so my label may have been premature, but it was still rough.
Race Day- I woke up around 5:30AM, and had a granola nutrition bar and some water as I was getting dressed and putting my gear together. Luckily, we were only staying about a mile from the starting line, so we left around 6:00AM, and got there with plenty of time before the 6:45AM start. They started us on a track at a local stadium, which was a fun way to get things going. Now, prior to the race, I had an idea about the size. Apparently I hadn’t looked to closely though, because it was significantly smaller than I had anticipated. As I waited for the starting gun, I looked around and there were probably only a few hundred people running the marathon (the half marathon started @ 7:30AM). This didn’t throw me much, but I knew early on that I’d be spending more time by myself on the run.
The weather at the start was perfect- 45 degrees, with a cool breeze. The first five miles went by in a flash, and when I looked down, I realized I was going WAY too fast. I had planned on this being a training run for me, especially since I had run 15 miles the day before. I was shooting for a finishing time between 4:30 and 5:00, which would put me at the pace I am working towards for Surf the Murph. Thus, after looking at my time, I pulled up (so I thought) and spent more time focusing on my posture, arm movement, and forward lean.
Despite the race being small, it was extremely well organized. There were water stops every 2.5 miles or so (even though I didn’t need them as frequently because I was carrying a water bottle), and the volunteers were all extremely helpful and friendly. A large portion of the race was along a bike path next to the Big Sioux River, which made for more scenic terrain, although they appear to be building up the levee so there was a lot of dirt/mud down by the banks of the river. The course also took us through Falls Park, which was certainly the highlight of the race. It is a beautiful natural city park with abstract rock formations and water falls throughout. I enjoyed it so much that we went back to visit the park after the race while we drank our coffee!
In all, it was a fairly flat course with a few rolling hills. The combination of lightly traveled roads, bike paths, and city parks made for a calm and enjoyable race. Perhaps too calm and enjoyable. In previous marathons, I tend to start feeling the effects of the distance around mile 20. However, as a result of my increased training no doubt, I had no such ill effects. In fact, I was at mile 22 before I looked down at the time again and realized I was STILL going way too fast! At this point, I simply accepted my fate (after trying unsuccessfully a few times to slow down again) and continued running. This was by far and away the best I had every felt during (and after) a marathon, and I was all smiles. I ended up crossing the finish line in around 4:07:38, which meant I PR’d by about 8 minutes! In fact, I ended up going so fast that the beautiful epicurean didn’t make it to the finish line in time to watch me cross- I had told her to plan on a 4:30 finish!
I am simultaneously elated about my time, frustrated at my lack of pacing discipline, and curious about what I’m truly capable of in a marathon (without running 15 miles the day before!). This race was also the first of two back-t0-back marathon weekends in my quest to join the Marathon Maniacs, so I’m excited for the Wabash Trace Trail Marathon this coming Saturday as well! All in all, it was a gorgeous day with a well-organized and well-supported race on a flat course. I couldn’t have asked for anything more!