PR-ing the Purdue University Boilermaker Half Marathon

Today was the 3rd annual Purdue University Boilermaker Half Marathon. I signed up for this race last year right after running the soggy 2nd annual Purdue University Boilermaker Half Marathon. Today’s weather was a cool 47 degrees and overcast. If you are unfamiliar with the West Lafayette and Lafayette, IN area that surrounds Purdue University’s campus then let me tell you the course is a bit hilly.

The course starts out on the edge of campus near Ross-Aide stadium and heads out toward the Purdue golf courses. The first 5-6 miles are very pleasant with a few rolling hills and even includes a great deal of downhill grade running as you cross down into the Wabash river valley to the Lafayette side. Once into Lafayette you run around the downtown Lafayette area and then begin your trek back to the shores of the Wabash around miles 7-8.  It is very picturesque and filled with memories for those returning alumni, like myself, who spent our formative years at our ol’ Purdue.

Do you remember me saying a few sentences ago that you were running DOWN into the river valley? Holy hell, you have to get back to campus! Mile 8 to 9-ish is all uphill. You think a bridge would be flat. NOPE!  It looked flat from the other side! …optical illusion apparently.

Up until then I had been maintaining a nice sub 9-minute pace and feeling great! I was fueling on a strict schedule and running through the water stops without slowing down. I used the crush top cup method to pour water and gatorade down my gullet and kept running never breaking stride and surprisingly getting most of the life giving liquids into me without too much spillage.

That “last” hill felt like it went on forever and it took a lot out of me. We climbed and climbed and climbed. I passed many a runner who was brought to a walk, but I had trained for this hill as I run most all my treadmill runs at a 1% incline so I am used to maintaining pace on an incline.  By the time I was at the top of the hill I felt like I was moving so slow, but my Garmin was still telling me that I was well below a 10-minute mile pace even though I was over my 9:05 needed to come in under 2-hours. At the top of the climb we made a turn to take us over to the Purdue University hotel and through the heart of campus to head back toward the stadium.

Passing the 10-mile marker I remembered where the course goes next and I remembered I was mistaken on that “last” hill comment earlier. The course doubles back on itself to go back by the Purdue golf courses toward the finish line in order to avoid running up that enormously steep hill that is right next to Ross-Aide stadium.  In order to accomplish this the course goes up Stadium Avenue to McCormick Road, passed the fraternities near Slater Hill…yes, it’s called Slater hill because well, it’s a big hill…like the kind you can sled down in the winter time…with a couch if done correctly.

The good news! It’s not that long of a climb. The bad news! It’s steeper than the bridge I mentioned earlier. This time my Garmin told me that I WAS over the 10-minute pace for a short period. I caught more and more runners as many walked up that hill. At the top of the hill was the 11-mile marker. I had 2.1 miles to go on relatively flat terrain and I was about 95+ minutes into the race. I realized I could do 10 minute miles the rest of the way and still beat 2-hours!  However, I didn’t come here to run 10-minute miles so I pushed it to keep a pace closer to 9:20. After passing the 12-mile marker I enjoyed the last 1.1 miles. At about a quarter mile out three Fleet Feet guys passed me and I decided to stick with them. They were running an 8:22 pace which felt surprisingly good to me! I cleared passed the three as I sprinted to the finish looking at the clock right as I crossed the line.

The clock read 01:57:08.  I know a few more seconds will be shaved off since I wasn’t toeing the start line at the gun.

Afterwards I was prepared for the smile, but I was unprepared for the emotion as I’ve chased this sub 2-hour goal for a couple years through unbearable heat and more than one very chilly race. Today’s race was perfectly set with a cool temperature, a sun under cloud cover and otherwise dry conditions. I cannot be happier right now and I’ve already put my new PR medal in it’s place of honor on my PR medal holder!

In two weeks I have the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. This is a training run for The Dopey Challenge and I am excited to run it! Next weekend I will still do a long run of close to or right at 20 miles. Looking forward to it!

Happy Training!

Brian

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