“Slow and low, that is the tempo…”
MCA was watching out for me yesterday in Fargo, as I had to keep reminding myself that a fast time wasn’t worth blowing the chance to run New York in November. The knee pop injury I suffered on Thursday at the TC 1 Mile had me seriously doubting my ability to finish marathon number twenty, but I was going to at least try.
During packet pickup at the Fargodome, I talked to Kris from Sweaty Bands, who recommended I visit the KT Band booth and get my knee taped up. She said all the high school track kids are using it and if I didn’t like it, I could just pull it off. I don’t like trying new things so close to a race, but I decided it was worth a shot.
The guy at the booth had about six people waiting in line, but it didn’t take long. He was very knowledgable, asking where it hurt and describing what was involved in that region. After a little shave, my pink band was in place and it felt good. I don’t know the science behind this, but I do think it helped me finish the race. Oh, and did I mention it was free? Thank you KT Band!
The whole setup at the Fargodome was pretty awesome – Thursday and Friday it hosts the expo, while on Saturday all of that was gone and the main floor transformed into finish line central: the actual finish, food and refreshments, bag pickup and lots of places to sit and meet family members. Colleen said this was by far the best race ever for spectators, with ample free parking right next to the dome and good seating in the stands around the finish. Lots of bathrooms and open refreshment stands too.
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Fargo, which was quite a ways from the Fargodome, but right across the street from West Acres Mall, where multiple race shuttles picked up runners. The hotel had a nice pool area for the kids and the rate was decent ($135/night), but the walls were paper thin – not a good thing with a crying baby next door.
The whole Fargo area had lots of signs up welcoming runners, including our choice for pre-race pasta, Happy Joe’s on University. The baked spaghetti was just what I wanted. We went looking for Jigg’s Diner in West Fargo after the race, but it’s apparently now called TNT Diner (and was good too).
I took an early shuttle to the race and ended up sitting around for about two hours. The 10K started first, followed by the half, then the full. There was a brief thunderstorm that moved through while I was inside the dome, and it dropped temps much more than I expected. It was in the mid 90Fs on Friday and the forecasted low was 67F, but I saw a bank sign that said 53F – perfect! It stayed cloudy most of the race with a decent wind, but it never rained and the sun did peek out for a few minutes.
The course was flat (as advertised) and there were spirited spectators along the way, but quite a bit fewer than any other race I’ve been to (with maybe the exception of Eau Claire). The finish line made up for that, though, as I felt like an Olympian coming down the chute to the cheers of the Fargodome crowd for my slow, barely sub-5 finish (official chip time of 4:57:49).
This is billed as a music race, but I think some of the bands must have skipped it due to the weather forecast. With me running slow, though, maybe I just missed them. The marathon course itself was mostly residential, but did pass through downtown and across the Red River into Minnesota for a half mile or so. Several miles run parallel on the same streets, which I would have liked more if I was running faster.
Speaking of pace, I ran without a watch and just planned to listen to my knee. I wanted to stay at ten minute miles or slower if I could, despite a competitive urge to speed things up. The first mile was uncomfortable and I was doubting my ability to finish. I bought the damn poster, though, so I needed to finish. The knee actually felt quite good around miles 6-10, but I had to listen to MCA and keep it slow the rest of the way.
Looking at my official splits, I did stay in the 10:00 range for most of the race – 5K in 32:04, 10K in 1:03:57 and the half in 2:19:09. I did feel a little more pain in the second half and slowed the pace down accordingly (although I never did take any extending walk breaks). Stopped twice for bathroom visits (unusual for me), and roughly hit every other water station. Couldn’t resist a sprint at the end when I saw the clock – so glad the knee didn’t pop during that moment of indiscretion.
Overall, I thought this was a good event. I still like Twin Cities and Grandma’s the best, but you can really tell the community supports this event and I think they realize it’s an up and coming race on the national calendar (voted best value by Runner’s World). Fifty Staters will do well to pick this as their ND race (it was state number five for me) and those looking for a flat course will love it. I found the religious undertone a little odd (bible quotes on the race poster and medal, blessing before the national anthem), but everyone was very nice and welcoming. Even the governor and mayor showed up to wish us good luck.
Nothing else planned now until New York on November 4. I’ll take a few days off and see how the knee does in recovery mode.