Tuesday, November 07, 2023

Rundown: Fresno Marathon (#37)

I'd been doing a lot of running lately and Toni.... kept angling for a marathon. After some research I decided on Fresno. Fresno is the current name for what was a 'twin cites' situation years ago, i.e. two cites side-by-side: Fresno and Clovis. Gradually two cites grew and merged and so it seems people decided to stop the confusion an call it all Fresno....which is the name of the indiginous ash trees on the San Joaquin river.

I was looking for a marathon within driving distance and Fresno seemed to fit the bill it was about 2 1/2 hours away. They had a race coming up on November 5th. It's a town mostly you visit when you pass through on the way to Yosemite. The Fresno marathon is not huge and it's very flat..which is great.

My training went well..I only had time to do two 20 milers (usually I want three under my belt) but you know, life, work and other stuff prevented that. But that's okay, I wasn't shooting for any particular time, just to have a nice solid race. Many days I trained it was also quite warm, even in the early morning, 60's rather than 50's, and on the long run days sometimes it touched the 70's. This turned out to be a good thing.

Fresno has been trying to build up the marathon and make it destination race. I think they've done a good job, with a couple of suggestions for improvement. More on that later....

Toni managed to snag a room at the Holiday Inn and Suites in Fresno. We had some problems with the reservations at this place..and when we arrived they also forced us to get a room for two days. In all my previous races we always got late checkout and only paid for one day. At least the room itself was very nice.

Drove to the Expo (which was at the local high school..a very nice school, btw). Picked up my tech shirt as well as a very thick sweatshirt. I've got no interest in any of the stuff they are selling so kept trying to push Toni along.

Toni found a nice italian restaurant and I got some tasty carbs...we ate early so I could get a good nights sleep.

The forecast was for 55F at the 6:30am (yawn) start time. The start was about 8 miles away from our hotel and as a mix of roads would be closed I drove a bit east before going north to avoid traffic. As usually even though still dark the place was hopping with arriving cars. We parked the car in (and marked it's location in google maps) and I headed.

I wore my marathon mainiacs singlet for maximum cooling, after putting level 100 sunscreen on my head and shoulders/arms/knees. Nice Nike shorts with two pockets:...some GU packets in the left pocket, and my big GU squeeze bottle in the right pocket..it's filed from bulk GU bags you can get off Amazon and is the way to go, much easer and more eco than tearing open packets during the race. I can eat smaller amounts of GU at a time and wash them down with a sip of water. (I carry a single water bottle for that purpose).

There was a bright RED sunrise in the east. Never seen one so powerful. The Chinese are right: The East is Red. 8)

The start was very informal....compared to races like CIM wich are hyper organized. No lining up in pens...there were pacers with the usual pace target times held up in on a stick. Everyone seemed pretty chill about it all. I hung back and eventually it was tim to give Toni a hug and set off. She was going to be waiting at several points and cheer me (and everyone) with her cowbell.

In the early miles I was near a fella that had the most unique water bottle carrier I've seen to date: the two bottles were behind you and just below his head. You reach back over your head and pluck the bottle out ..and then I guess (hopefully) you can stick it back in the holder without seeing it.

The temps were ok, below 60F..but I'd prefer to see more like 55F. I had picked a pace of around 11:00 but was concerned about the high temps forecast..we'd be seeing close to 70F by the last 6 miles....ugh. I was taking two glasses at each water stop...one in and one on my head.

There wasn't much crowding as the streets at this point in the course are *very* wide. As often happens I was running near two young fellas with similar pacing and so eventually we struck up a conversation. They were local folks, born and raised in Fresno and this was thier first marathon. But, I learned they hadn't done much running to prepare. Ah the hubris of youth!

We were doing a 11:15 m/m pace. My two 20 milers were done at more like an 11 m/m place, but I it was going to be hot and so started a bit slower. I could always speed up later (ha ha). I concentrated on good form and was loving my Nike Alphafly shoes as always.

There were a decent number of spectators, cheering on their friends and everybody else. The water stops were spaced at two mile intervals which I didn't like (spoiled by CIMs one mile spacing). They were staffed by very enthusiastic cheering young folks.

But I didn't like the tiny dixie cups they used..not enough water by any means. I would take two at each stop...I'd drink the first and part of the second and dump the rest on my head. Felt nice and cold!

Eventually, we looped back toward the start on one of the long out-and-back 'fingers' of the course. When we got closer to the start location I could hear a cowbell..yes: it was Toni! She was the only person IIRC on the entire race that had a cowbell. (Yes, Fresno is a bit new to marathoning ;) I gave here a touch-hug (I'm sweaty!) and off on a new section of the course.

My two local companions and I spent some time running near what I think was the Dry Creek Trail. This was a tree lined area and had some welcome partial shade.

At some point I realized I my two co-runners were very gradually dropping behind and losing contact. I was feeling quite good and was getting a lot of kudos here and there..I guess for just being an old guy still running ;)

At about 20.2 miles we turned around on Pollasky ave and headed back north. Shortly after that we went out onto a little stub off the main coarse to Cottonwood park and back. That was very nice and shady (IIRC). After the turnaround on that stub ...on the return.. I saw my two compatriates going out and I waved to them.

I was still feeling good..and waiting to see what the final miles would bring. It was so hot and sunny, even with all the water I was still feeling dehydrated quite a bit. But the pace was holding so...I kept on keeping on.

One more sighting (and hearing) of Toni (plus cowbell) and we were on the last few miles to the finish. At that point I just tried to keep the pace but gradually I was heating up. I had run out of my own water and shamefully all the water stops were basically out of water too. (they had dixie cups with 1/4" of water in them.

Oh well, we kept on keeping on. As you can see from the splits I finally had to drop to a walk-run abt mile 24..that was still good for 12:40 m/m-ish...so I was not losing too much.

Finally turned and spotted the finish line and managed a slow 'sprint' to the finish.

Marathon 37 done!

  1. 1 11:15
  2. 2 11:01
  3. 3 11:03
  4. 4 10:55
  5. 5 10:44
  6. 6 11:03
  7. 7 10:50
  8. 8 10:43
  9. 9 11:04
  10. 10 10:40
  11. 11 11:00
  12. 12 11:16
  13. 13 11:05
  14. 14 11:25
  15. 15 11:17
  16. 16 11:28
  17. 17 11:28
  18. 18 11:09
  19. 19 10:56
  20. 20 11:04
  21. 21 10:44
  22. 22 11:16
  23. 23 11:06
  24. 24 12:39
  25. 25 12:28
  26. 26 11:37
  27. .2 0:21
  28. Finish 4:51:38, 11:12 average pace