About a month ago I ran the Goshen College Maple Leaf Indoor Marathon, twice in two days. The Maple Leaf Indoor marathon takes place in the small Northwest Indiana town of Goshen, on the campus of Goshen College. The indoor track is roughly 226 yards (208 meters) around, making 204 laps 26.2 miles. The track has four lanes and the race is limited to thirty entrants so it isn’t too crowded. Every thirty minutes runners switched direction to avoid continual left or right turns for 204 laps. There were no water stations on the “course” but tables were setup on each corner of the track for runners to put hydration and nutrition. They race volunteers refill bottles for runners as needed, with water or Gatorade. The race was chip timed. The chip counts the number of laps you have run. Progress was shown on a big screen TV and runners were able to track progress as they passed the screen.
People from all over the US run. Many members of the Marathon Maniacs show up to run both days. I have never run an ultra, but there is a sense of camaraderie here that I sense is similar to an ultra event. People are chatting with each other before, during and after the race.
The first marathon I ran was a year ago at the indoor marathon. After finishing, as sore as I was, I started seriously thinking about running the marathon on both days. In November, I signed up to run the marathon both Saturday and Sunday.
My plan was to train for this adventure similar to training for a single marathon, run lots of miles! I loosely followed a Hal Higdon plan adding some weekends of back to back long runs. The second weekend of January, I ran 11 on Saturday morning and 20 on Sunday morning. The next weekend I ran 17 on Saturday and 15 on Sunday (70 mile week). Two weeks later, the last weekend of January, I ran 19 on Saturday and 21 on Sunday (71 mile week). The following weekend I did 20 on Saturday and 20 on Sunday (70 mile week). Last year I ran my longer runs near what my expected marathon pace was to be, which contributed to an Achilles injury 6 weeks later. This year I tried to be smarter running my long runs slower than marathon pace. Although running on the weekends at 5:00 a.m. in the cold NW Indiana winter there were runs I pushed the pace more just to get home and out of the cold!
I remember after finishing last year my quads were pretty beat up. I think a lot of that had to do with the constant turning on the track. This year I ran about half a dozen times on the track, up to 7 miles, in preparation for the marathons.
I ran pretty hard last year as it was my first marathon and I didn’t know any better. Plus, I was excited to complete a marathon and have a good time. I remember waking up Sunday morning thinking “I couldn’t run another marathon today if I wanted to.” With that in mind I planned to take it a bit easier on Saturday knowing I had another 204 laps to run on Sunday!
The race started at 8:00 a.m. and being less than 15 minutes from the race, I woke up around 6:30. I had a bagel and water, showered and dressed and was out the door by 7:00 a.m. I arrived at the college with two water bottles and plenty of gel. One bottle had Caffé Latte Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem and the other was water with a Camelback Elixir electrolyte tablet. It was nice to see some familiar faces of local runners and runners from the race last year. Everyone has a story of why they come to little Goshen to run an indoor marathon. Vince, from California, had met one of the race volunteers at a marathon and came to Goshen because of him. Vince ran both days for his 15th and 16th marathons of the year (only 8 weeks into 2012 mind you)! Many Marathon Maniacs run the marathon on both Saturday and Sunday.
I started off easy thinking an 8:30 or so pace would be good. The problem for me pacing-wise, was figuring out what pace I was running. Garmin GPS don’t work indoors. I knew 7.5 laps was roughly a mile, so 1:00 per lap would put me at a 7:30 mile. Running 1:06 per lap put me closer to the 8:30 per mile mark. There was a big clock at the start/finish line and I tried to keep an eye on it to make sure I wasn’t running too fast. A few seconds faster per lap could make a big difference per mile. My legs felt good and I was paying close attention to making sure I took in plenty of fluid. The first half was pretty uneventful and done around 1:52. I had chatted with some of the runners which helped the time go faster. It does get a bit boring running in circles for hours on end! About 124 laps in (mile 16), I was feeling strong and as the leaders went by, I decided to see if I could hang with them for a few laps. I ticked off 5 laps in the 59s-58s range (7:30-7:37/mile). I remember the laps feeling pretty easy, but also wondering if I’d pay for the faster laps later.
Running in circles makes this a great spectator race. Being a local race, I knew my wife, three boys, and her parents would be showing up at some point. Around lap 170 they all showed up. They had made a big banner for me. It was a great mental boost to see them. I know it wasn’t exactly what they wanted to do on a Saturday morning, but they were there, cheering me on. They watch me go by 30 more times until I finished! My official time was 3:44:09.
I think mentally the last five miles were the toughest. Another local runner, Jim, paced me the last 10 laps or so. He must have been able to sense I was struggling and it sure helped having someone push me. I placed 5th overall, just missing fourth by a minute or two. My legs felt pretty good, tired but OK. There was a good spread of food: pizza, chocolate milk, bananas, oranges, and cookies. I was able to get plenty to eat. I also drank mixed a bottle of Hammer Recoverite. I showered up and put on my Zenzah calf sleeves and tri shorts to help with the soreness.
Sunday’s marathon started at 7:00a.m. I wasn’t as worried about getting to the race early so I arrive about 20 minutes before the start. My legs were a bit tired and sore, but overall OK. I had some tightness in the quads and hips. All of the turns take a different toll than running outside. For my second go around (literally) in 24ish hours I told myself that it was all about finishing. A local runner friend, Chris, was running on Sunday and we chatted before the start about strategy and pacing. We started off running together as he hadn’t done much training for the marathon. In fact, his longest run had been a 10 miler the week before! We started off at a nice easy pace and I felt alright. I had more of a tired feeling in my legs than soreness as we got going. Chatting with Chris, the first two hours went by pretty quickly. By the 2:01 mark I was half way done. Yesterday I ran into a bit of a mental block already at lap 71. Today I didn’t have any of those issues. I just kept pushing along. Around lap 126 I was feeling really tired. I was struggling mentally with whether or not to walk. I finally decided to walk one curve to the table where my water was. I grabbed my water and started running again. Part of me didn’t want to walk as I was worried I’d have trouble getting going again, and I knew walking meant being out there longer. Another part of me didn’t care. I wanted to finish and be able to walk home! I had to push my pride aside a bit and realize I’d run over 40 miles in the last 24 hours, in circles no less, and had a right to be tired. Every couple of miles I’d walk half a lap or so while drinking or taking a gel. I didn’t want to walk, but it was tough for my body to keep going. My wife and kids showed up again around lap 170 with a new banner to cheer for me. When I thought I had 2 laps left I asked the boys to run with me. Then I found out I had only one lap left and ran so fast they couldn’t keep up with me! 51 seconds for the last lap which translates to a 6:35/mile. I was so excited to be done. My wife said I looked pretty emotional when I finished. I suppose I was, this was a huge endeavor for me. Two marathons in two days it big in itself, but the indoor part added an extra challenge. My marathon count now stands at four; three indoors and one outdoor!
My time was 4:06:59. I had hoped to finish under 4:00 hours, but it just wasn’t going to happen. If I wouldn’t have walked I would have been closer to a sub 4:00, but I just couldn’t keep going. My time was almost 1:00/mile slower Sunday than Saturday, but I don’t know that I could have pushed the pace much more. Sunday was surprisingly easier mentally. I expected to struggle with boredom and mental fatigue Sunday, but Saturday was actually worse.
I committed a cardinal sin of running on Saturday, taking in fuel (Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem and Camelback Elixir electrolyte tablets) that I hadn’t used in training runs. I felt OK during the race, but had some major GI issues later in the day after I got home. I felt alright when I woke up Sunday, but just had a butter bagel and banana for breakfast. I stuck with water and gels Sunday, no Perpetuem. I did use one Elixir tablet later on in the race. The first two gels I took had plenty of caffeine, I was hoping it would give me a boost and help to hold off the pain a bit. I’m not sure if it worked or not.
I don’t know if this is a lesson learned or not. I did wear different shoes each day. Saturday I wore my Saucony Kinvara. They tend to beat up my toes a bit as they are narrow in the toe box. Sunday I wore my Nike Free Run +2 which have a wider toe box. I also wore Zensah calf sleeves on Sunday and tri-shorts which have some compression to them.
The first woman to finish Sunday, Melissa Gillette, set a world record for the fastest women’s indoor marathon at 3:08, totally destroying the previous record by over 7 minutes. Pretty cool to be a part of that! She was a machine and passed me about 50 times! Runners World had and article about her accomplishment.
On another related note: I figured since I’m doing this crazy double indoor, why not try to raise money for a local charity. I picked a charity, http://gosheninterfaith.org, that our family helps out with. They provide housing for local homeless persons in area churches. I had set a goal of $1000 and was able to raise over $1900! I was glad to be able to give back a bit through this crazy adventure.
The Maple Leaf Indoor Marathon is a fun event. There is a lot of camaraderie among runners. If you are looking to run two marathons in a weekend, I encourage you to check out the Goshen Maple Leaf Indoor Marathon. It is a event that is run very well (the race director usually runs both days). Goshen is also a nice place to visit for the weekend.
Post by Matt Fisher on twitter @fisherfamily