Tuesday, May 26, 2015

2015 Kalamazoo (Borgess) Marathon: A Litte Running, A Lot of Beer!

Kalamazoo Borgess Marathon start
Hey, are you OK?' the race volunteers asked as I collapsed to the ground on the side of the road at mile 18 of the Kalamazoo Borgess marathon. "Yeah, I'm good," I replied, "I've been doing this every mile or so," I explained as I attempted to get back up on my feet.

"Have you had anything to drink?" they asked, concerned about the heat and humidity that had been steadily rising all morning. "Oh yeah, I just chugged a giant mimosa that someone handed me,"I proudly exclaimed. They did not seem impressed.

"We're going to need an ambulance at mile 18," I overheard one of the race officials mutter into his radio. "Wait! No, I'm fine! Hold on. I just need to lay down for a second," I protest in vain.

A minute later they are helping me into the ambulance. But, to save face, I refuse to sit in the back "with all the sick people" and demand to ride shotgun in the front seat with the EMT. I think he senses that I'm not going into the back without a fight, and so he shrugs and opens the front door. Several minutes later I'm sitting in the post-race beer tenting fussing over some fine local craft beer.

Big Johnny taking it out hard!
But let's go back to the beginning.

In the Beginning

My buddy Bill Pritchett who lives in Michigan talked me into doing the Lansing marathon. Or maybe I talked him into doing it. Or maybe we talked each other into it. Who knows. In any case, it seemed like a good idea. I grew up in Lansing. It's where I first began running at age 10 with my father. But alas, like most things associated with Lansing, the has race fallen on hard times lately and was cancelled this year.

But luckily (or perhaps not-so-luckily) Bill found another race in Michigan being held on the exact same day that the Lansing marathon was supposed to have taken place. So, a quick change of venue and there we are, wandering through the deserted aisles of the Kalamazoo Marathon race expo the night before the race, hurrying to pick up our bib numbers so we can head to the local brewery to do some pre-race carb loading!

Kalamazoo has no shortage of great micro-breweries, so it took us a couple of hours to wade through all the Yelp reviews. In the end we decided on Latitude 42 Brewing Company, mainly so that my buddy Bill could have his precious Lil' Miss Sunshine Ale (or whatever it's actually called).

He offered me a sip and I can attest that it was just as refeshing and delicious as your would expect from a 4.8% "chick beer". I on the otherhand of course went for the strongest most-manly beer on the menu, the 9.5%  Flavor Savor Imperial IPA. Go big or go home!

Bill's go-to pre-race beer, Lil' Miss Sunshine Ale
And We're Off

Bill and I had both decided at some point (probably after a few 9.5% ABV beers) that rather than taking it easy and running a smart but boring race, we were going to run agressively, if not even a bit recklessly, right from the get go.

So, true to my word, I hammered the first 3 miles in 6:20 pace (whereas I realistically should have been doing no faster than 6:40 pace). And the rest as they say is history.

Somewhere around mile 10 I found mysel muttering, "I think I've made a horrible mistake". Three miles later I was laying on the side of the road in a shady grassy spot debatting whether it would be faster to turn around and walk back to the start or to continue jogging slowly toward the finish in hopes of finding a second wind.

Bill won his age group!
Spoiler alert: I never found a second wind. However I did find a group of spectators drinking mimosas on the corner around mile 17. I don't recall if somoene actually offered me their mimosa, or if I just helped myself, but I will say, nothing hits the spot on a hot day like a really, really, big fucking cup of mimosa. Ahhh.

A mile later I was down for the count, lying in the grass beneath a shady tree thinking about what might have been. Bill had just blown past me.

I momentarily thought about trying to stay with him so that we could run the last 8 miles together and get our finish line photos taken. But, it seemed like a lot of work. The heat of the day and the hills of the course had fried my legs and I didn't have the willpower (or the sobriety) to solider on.


Bill paying the price for a hard effort!
It's easy to say that I should have done this, or that I shouldn't have done that. Sure, hammering the first 3 miles of a hilly course at a suicidal pace probably wasn't the recipie for success. And very few race winners have ever got up on the podium and credited their victory to a super-sized mid-race mimosa.

But what the hell... you can't win em all. And if you're going to fail, you might as well fail spectacularly. Go big or go home, right?

My buddy Bill held on to finish the race in a very respectable time of 3:17. While about 8 minutes off his personal best, his time was fast enough for a 15th place overall finish, and more importantly, he won his age group!

And how did young William celebrate you ask? Well, by puking out his guts in the beer tent of course! I guess he should have stuck with the Lil' Miss Sunshine Golden Ale instead of trying to pound IPAs with Big Johnny!

Running into ultra-runner buddy Scott VanLoo
So, in conclusion... Even if a race doesn't go the way we hope it will, you can generally salvage some teachable moment or life lesson.

In this case I re-learned a valuable lesson, one that I have re-learned many times before: if you go out hard like a reckless jackass you will likely end up walking back to the start/finish line in shame (or if you are luck, riding back in the shotgun seat of an ambulance playing with the lights/sirens while the EMT driver yells at you).

Beer... Of course!

Come for the race, stay for the beer!
Aside from the ambulance ride, the other highlight of the race was the beer. Arcadia Brewing Company hosted a beer garden at the finish line where Bill and I enjoyed a couple post-race beers.

As we were leaving (to head over to Bell's, another local brewery) I ran into ultra-runner buddy Scott VanLoo who was disguised as R2D2.

Bill a I drank a couple of Bell's Hopslam beers, which Bill had been saving for a rainy day, in the parking lot of Bell's brewery (which was closed unfortunately). Then we headed over to Bell's Eccentric Cafe, which was thankfully open, for some more beer... and a little food.

So if you're ever in Michigan in early May, I definitely recommend the Kalamazoo marathon (which by the way is surprisingly hilly and quite challenging) and of course, the post-race beer!

1 comment:

Larry Neumann said...

Well, there's another lesson in there, other than "don't go out too hard". Which *is* always good advice, especially when you wear that speedo thing you wear. The other advice is: there's a time for beer and a time for running. Sort of like there's a time for work, and a time for beer, and those two don't mix well either. The great news is, marathons are almost always first thing in the morning, which leaves you a whole day to drink beer, even the 9.5% brent crude shit that you like. Somewhere along the way, after drinking too much the night before, resulting in a result like you had, I implemented the "one pint the night before" rule when running an event the next day, and it's one I bet even you could do if you chose to. Then you pair it with the "multiple beers *after* the finish" rule if it is longer than a half marathon. Mandatory for a marathon or longer.