Redemption in defeat: Pere Marquette 2011

2011, my year of new adventures, featured only one repeat performance of a 2010 race: the Pere Marquette Endurance Trail Race. I was very on the fence about running this again after my abysmal performance in last year's race (cliff notes version of that link: 7.8 hilly, muddy miles in 2 hours and 21 minutes); of course, last year's results were exactly why I had to do this again.  Additionally, this is one of my tri club's signature events, but the final convincing straw is that I really wanted the vest that was this year's race shirt.

Photo credit: Robin "Co-captain Awesome" Rongey/Russ Darbon
I didn't have a wind vest before, and now I have the added benefit of glowing in the dark. :)
I wasn't just seeking redemption in this race, though; I was after an elusive victory.  Not a course win or even age group placement (I may call myself Super, but I have a firm grip on reality), but I was hoping to finally beat my friend Wade in a race.  Typically, if we aren't in the same race, my times have been better than his, but every time we've raced head to head, I've trailed.  He has become something of a nemesis to me.  This race was going to change that.

Compared to last year, when I ran one pre-Pere Marquette race and a few training runs on singletrack, I spent a lot of time on trails this year.  At least 7 races (one of which was a half marathon and one that was 30K) as well as the majority of my marathon training long runs were on trails.  I even made the hour-long drive to Marquette Park to do two training runs this fall, as well as a 16-mile run on the trails of Castlewood Park.  I was far more prepared for this race than is typical for me.  I was, dare I say it, even excited about it.

21 degrees on my way to catch my ride.  Brrrr!

I was able to sustain the excitement despite the cold forecast (20's...yikes).  I ran all last winter, but our temperate fall has left me a little weather wimpy.  I settled on shorts over running tights and two long-sleeved tech shirts.  Of course, I also brought a fleece to keep on until the last minute.  I knew I was going to need it since the cost of the ride I'd begged with Wade (keep your friends close and your nemeses closer...what is the plural of nemesis, anyway? I bet Casey would know.) included helping set up the team tent and banners.

Clearly I was very helpful since I was taking pictures
We were leaving at 6:30 to get to the park in time for set up.  6:30 for a 9:30 race.  Such is the cost of the laziness of not wanting to drive.  I got up plenty early but was a little distracted by Facebook and such, and I ended up having enough time to run to QT for coffee and soda or comb my hair, but not both.  Since I had been warned before our ride last year that I'd be left behind if I was late, I avoided getting AIS'd by opting to shove my hair under a hat and get the drinks.  (the clip is 7 min. long, but it's funny)

Our area must be home to a large numbers of gluttons for punishment, because despite regularly featuring cold temperatures in addition to its signature hills, the race sold out its 600ish spots in less than 7 hours this year.  The Lodge was crammed with masochists racers checking in, and the sea of safety yellow was blinding.

Photo credit: Robin "Co-captain Awesome" Rongey
Robin gets both photo credit AND in the picture at the same time!

I hadn't yet joined the tri club last year, so I knew about 4 people on race day.  This year I had lots of friends there. After getting my vest and number, I finally got a chance to comb and braid my hair.

Hanging out with Lisa, who celebrated her birthday by volunteering and cheering on her husband, pre-race
After the pre-race meeting and dedication to Jennifer Cole, an avid rider and runner who was tragically killed in a bike-car accident earlier this year, it was time to head down to the start line. While I was watching some of my fast friends line up, a girl asked me if I'd been at Berryman in September, " have a blog, right?"  It was Kristen from team Small But Mighty again.  So hi, Kristen! It was nice seeing you. :)
Fast folks getting ready to start.
Because the race is run entirely on the trails, participants are sent off in waves every 30 seconds. With 600+ runners, that works out to 26 waves (numbered 0-25). Me, I was in wave 24.

Wave 24.  Out of 25.  I'm not even going to pretend that it didn't sting.  Your wave is based on your self-reported previous Pere Marquette, previous 10K, or predicted 10K time.  Any race I've ever run would've given me a better start postition, but I gave my last year's time, despite the fact that I'm definitely a better runner than that would indicate. Why?  I don't know, I think because last year I gave a time based on my half marathon and finished incredibly far from what that would indicate I can do.

And, yes, I's not where you start, it's THAT you start (thanks, Dawn).  It gave me the oportunity to pass a lot of people.  I was way ahead of all the people home on their couches.  Whatever.  Wave 24 gave me a new purpose for my race, greater even than beating Wade: Prove that I don't belong here.

Unlike last year, I actually started with my wave this time (uhhh, sorry Wendy!).  Because of the pressure I was putting on myself, I knew that I had to be careful to start conservatively.  The race starts with about .3 miles of nice, flat trail before it begins to climb.  My goal was to go at a sustainable pace until I had to walk.  There was a delicate balance to maintain: run as long as you can, but not so long that it wipes you out for the top of the hill.

Overall, I was able to stick with my plan.  I didn't have to walk that much on smaller hills, and I passed quite a few people on the uphills before I had to walk.  The training definitely paid off.  Other than the first monster hill, I felt pretty good through the first three miles.    This wasn't a race where I spent much time talking to the people around me; rather, it was one where I rarely had the breath to make conversation.  The big hill was particularly tough, though.  As I pushed to keep my walking pace somewhere above "stroll" level, I gasped to the guy next to me something about the only good thing about the hill being that we wouldn't have to go up it again.  Or something like that.  It was even more incoherent at the time.  He kind of laughed, and then as I started to slow even more told me, "No, come on..."  I thanked him and he said, "Yeah, I'll probably need you to do that later for me." 

Around mile 5 I could feel myself wearing down, but even then I was feeling a real lack of mental strength.  I'd think to myself, Come on, you know Wade is probably running need to push...but found myself not caring enough to make myself hurt.  The negative self talk was there, too...Maybe you do belong in this wave!  My feet were dragging along with my thoughts, and I really don't know how I avoided falling when they were barely leaving the ground.  It was around here that Wendy, who I'd passed early on some of the hills, came running by and smacked my butt as she churned past.  I was happy she was having a good race and annoyed with myself for losing ground, all at once.

Other people crossing on their way back up
Around mile 6 you have a nice, flat straightaway, and then you cross a park road and are soon climbing again.  It amazes me that people can run this, but of course the front people run the whole thing.  First you are just going up steep hills, but then you get to the steps.  The Steps.

Just a few of the steps
They may not look so bad, but the thing about The Steps is that there are a lot of them.  And none are of matching heights.  These ones aren't so tall, but there are some that are difficult for me to step onto, despite the fact that I'm almost 6 feet tall and have a lot of leg.  And, of course, you've been running hills for 6 miles, so you're already hurting plenty.
I'm smiling, but only because of the camera.
In a cruel twist, once you summit the steps, there's another steep uphill climb.  Seeing a previous year's race shirt on a guy in front of me, I told him, "We know better, and we keep coming back!!"  I may or may not have later offered anyone in earshot $1,000 to carry me the rest of the way up the hill.  No takers, which I guess is a good thing because that would be cheating I don't have the money anyway.

Finally, we were at the top.  Knowing that the worst was behind me was a huge boost.  I was able to pass a couple more people on one of the last uphills, and then my friend Jim came and ran me in for the last half mile or so.  He really encouraged me to push, and I did.  Then, we came across Wade and Patrick in the last quarter mile.  Wade said something about beating me him.  The thought that it might be possible made me start sprinting. 

That last quarter mile flat out hurt.  I could hear friends cheering as I neared the finish line and watched as the clock changed from the 1:46s into 1:47 range.  Losing that last minute evaporated what oomph I had left, but luckily I was almost there.  The picture of me at the end shows just how bad I felt.
Hey, feet are off the ground!
Once I caught my breath and thought about my finish time, 1:47ish, I was pretty pleased.  That was a big change from last year's 2:21, and even if this year's conditions were worlds better (in fact, pretty much perfect), that's still a big improvement.  But then I remembered that my wave actually left 12 minutes into the race, so my time was actually 1:35.04.  A 46 minute PR. 
Post-race with Robin
Unfortunately, Wade finished about 7 minutes ahead of me and so remains my nemesis.  The first time I go publically gunning for someone, and I go down in flames.  On the other hand, since he does better every time I'm there, I think I probably deserve some kind of coaching fee (although it could be argued I get that in rides and bike mechanic services).  Maybe I have a future in motivation. 

Even with my crushing defeat, I have to count the day a success.  I had my butt thoroughly kicked by this race last year.  This year, my calves and quads are threatening to secede, but my ego is much happier.  That's a trade-off I'll take any day...but especially on Pere Marquette day.


Time: 1:35:04
Overall: 405/532
Age group: 26/38


  1. Congrats on a HUGE PR Kate! Nice race report too (as usual).

  2. That is such a huge PR! You are something! And thanks for the link for AIS. I am so ignorant of some of those. I had to ask you what DFL was but now I know! THat is what i'll be in my triathlon!
    You just keep doing those amazing races! You never quit! I am so tired from ordinary things and you're out there being super but with a grip on reality! Love it.

  3. I have officially achieved one of my life's goals by becoming a nemesis. (If you get another, you would have nemeses.)

    Castlewood in 9 weeks. The re-match is ON!

  4. Holy crap! 46 minutes?! You rock Kate!

  5. Way to PR! Definitely a believer in theories related to winning just for getting to the starting line and over the finish line! Love it!

  6. A 45 minute PR is fantastic, SK! Just think, if you can knock off another 45 next year, you could earn some big prize money!! :)

    Of course, I love all the smiling pictures and I have to agree that that yellow vest was a must-do, no matter what conditions! I'd maybe even drive through a snowstorm and have frozen hair flap in my face for that one.

    Nicely done. I just can't wait to see what adventures 2012 has in store for you, you constantly are living a very exciting - and FUN - life! :)

  7. That race sounds fantastic! I'd love to do it someday (no compasses, right?)! And a huge PR for you--the training is definitely paying off. You'll get your Nemesis next time.

  8. Huge, massive PR, Kate! Way to go!! And I predict Wade will go down one of these days if you keep this up. Congrats!

  9. $1,000 to carry you up the hill? $1,000 for a massage? Must have been quite the year end bonus!

  10. Great run and awesome report as well! Congratulations, really super! It looks really cold. I'm good in cold but South African cold is not as bad as your's.

  11. Awesome recap. Congratulations on a huge PR. I couldn't wait to see how this year measured up to last for you. You really capture the feeling of the race.

    All the best,


  12. I noticed the tags you have at the bottom of the report. "Hills Suck" What happened to "Hills are your friend?" haha

  13. Ah! Looks so fun! I have never done a trail race- of any sort- but maybe I'm overdue. Looks like you should get that coaching fee!! :)

    The vests are a nice alternative to the typical race shirt.

    Great job with the PR!

  14. You kicked some serious ASS! NICE JOB! 46 minutes?!? Fantastic :)

  15. I completely enjoyed your report of the race, read every word. But I completely UNDERSTOOD the race after you mentioned the vest.

  16. 46 minutes! that is more than redemption!!! wow congrats to you Super Kate!!!! Hills suck..indeed but hills brought us both a PR this weekend...You are Queen of the hills! That makes me Princess of the Hills!!!

  17. ah yes I did notice...but was not sure...thought maybe he was the one who took the pics of you at the end....
    sorry....I could come over for dinner and have a chat with him...:)

  18. Congratulations! That course seems really hard. Nice job!!


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