It rained. Here's the scene that greeted me on race morning:
The night before we enjoyed a pasta feed and a few beers at the race expo. We met some of the runners who were interested in pace groups and chatted with them a little bit. Then, Pacer Sam spoke to the crowd (actually about 25-30 runners) in the speakers area of the expo. Unbeknownst to us he had us join him on stage and give a few words of advice to the runners. Pacer Adam stole my advice of starting out slow so I said some nonsense about taking it one mile at a time after mile 20.
Then, we headed to our lodging. The Minnesota Pacers got to stay in a sweet "cabin," part of the Grand View Lodge Resort near Brainerd, Minnesota. We each got our own room and bathroom as well as free coffee (I know, right!?). All part of being part of, "the largest pace team in the world."
It was my first time pacing with the Minnesota Pacers and I must say it was an overall positive experience. Sam Ryder, the guy in charge, is a ball of energy--enthusiastic to say the least.
After sleeping in my comfortable quarters, I awoke to the pleasant sound of rain pounding the cabin roof. It was wet, windy weather waiting for us to run 26.2 miles through the back roads of Brainerd.
Since my wife didn't pack for me I had a couple snafus with my gear. Adam and Leah were nice enough to let me ride up with them and Adam provided me with a Cliff bar for breakfast since I didn't have the foresight to pack food. I also found that a brand new tube of chapstick can double as body glide (won't be using that on my lips anymore). I also didn't pack my sweet arm warmers or gloves, so my hands and arms had to be a little chilly.
The shuttle to the start line was a little bit of a disaster. I guess some of the race's shuttles had backed out so there were a couple of minivans and one of the ambulances shuttling runners to the start. It ended up delaying things by about 20 minutes, but it all worked out in the end.
Once I got moving my hands and arms started to warm up. I had a nice group of runners running with the pace group. One in particular, Dan, was very friendly and he stuck with me for 21 miles. He was a local and he knew the course so it was great having him in the group. He took off at about mile 21 and right after he left a lady named Sheila went by us and said, "I've been following you for 21 miles!"
"Great!" I said. "I hope I don't see you again until the finish."
Unfortunately I did catch back up to her and after she told me she was hoping she wouldn't see me again I told her to stay with me and I'd bring her to the finish under 3:50. Shortly after we passed Dan. I told him he was almost there and offered some encouragement and he said, "I'm doin' the death march here."
I was also running with a couple other runners, one from Eagan, so it was cool chatting with him about the local running areas. He and another runner stayed with me almost the whole race and finished around a minute behind me. I thought I lost Sheila at the mile 25 water stop but every time I looked back she was pretty close. Then, right at the finish she passed me. Both our times were 3:49:53 but the results have her ahead of me. She was going for a BQ and did awesome.
Although it was raining and windy at times, I still really enjoyed pacing the Brainerd Jaycees Run for the Lakes Marathon. The volunteers were great and with only 102 marathon finishers there were probably almost as many volunteers as runners.
My final time of 3:49:53 was pretty good for my pacing duties. My first half split was 1:55:07--my first negative split ever in a marathon. I think a did a pretty decent job with no miles faster than 8:30 and none slower than 8:59--right around the 8:47 pace I was supposed to be running.
The other pacers also did and awesome job. Dan, who paced the 3:20 group, ran a 3:19:59. Awesome. I think all the pacers were within a minute of their time--even Leah, who had her Garmin crap out on her in the first few miles. She ended up using a Jaycees' phone to pace after that halfway point. Color me impressed.
Here's Leah and I at the finish:
After enjoying a nice post race massage we headed to Zorbaz for some food. Awesomely, they happened to have beer tasting going on in a tent by the restaurant. Here are Adam, Dan, and I having an awesome time:
It was a fun race and I'd definitely do it again. Next week I'll be pacing the New Prague 1/2 Marathon and the week after that a 30k in White Bear Lake.