CMM 2009 – A Race Report (of sorts)
Well, you’ve already seen the final results, so I won’t rehash that.
And we don’t have much in the way of photos, so I can’t post those.
But I can post this:
- The forecast as far as ten days out was for a hot, dry day. But I know that 10-day forecasts are a roll of the dice, so I kept my fingers crossed. Unfortunately, as race day approached, the forecast held true. My goal when I registered for this race was to break four hours.
- Four hours for me would be a huge PR. An over-reaching PR, considering my PR is 4:25:40, which was on a much, much hillier course. But I knew where my fitness and preparation put me, so four hours was not out of the question. But I’d definitely have to work for it.
- With a forecast of 70F at the start and mid-80’s by noon, I knew that I needed to adjust my plans to just get through the race. Time goals should go out the window. But I don’t give up that easy. I still planned on pacing for a four hour run, with a negative split. I’d evaluate where I was by the half-way point and push as hard as I could, regardless of the conditions. Also, the wind was forecast to get gusty from the south, which may or may not help.
- My mom and sister were in town. Sister would walk the half-marathon with Goddess, while mom would come down and support. But she also planned to meet a friend for brunch while we were out flogging ourselves. And since she couldn’t ride the shuttle to the start line from the parking area at the finish, we had to leave early so I could drop off all three at the start line, then head across town to park the car and ride the shuttle back. So we were headed out the door at 3:45 am. So much for my own advice from last year where I said that I’d get a hotel room next time we ran this race.
- I read that they had sang the national anthem and made several announcements before the start. But unlike last year, they didn’t have loudspeakers along the length of the masses. So we never heard it.
- As forecast, 70F and humid at the start. They adjusted the course this year to take a longer loop through the landmarks in the downtown area. An excellent sightseeing option, but included quite a few more hills.
- As always, great crowd support along the majority of the course. With 31,352 registered runners, there were lots of friends and family and locals supporting the crowd. It definitely added a lot of energy to the course.
- The course was very crowded for the first eight miles. With so many runners, there’s just no way around it, even with the wave start. But that worked out well, since it forced me to keep my pace under control.
- A quick potty stop at 4.6 miles, thanks to the ungodly lines at the start area. Sure, they probably had 100 porta-potties in the start area, but that’s nowhere near enough for 31,352 runners. There were news reports of people complaining about the lack of TP in the porta-johns. We found that out last year, so we brought our own.
- The half- and full-marathon routes split at 11.5 miles. With only 3,961 running the marathon, the course emptied out real quick. So did the spectators, although we still had some great pockets of support until we met up with the half-marathon group again at 19.5 miles.
- At the 13.1-mile point, I was right on my planned pace to break four hours. I hit the half-marathon at 2:03:35, which poised me well for a comfortable negative split. But even when I reached this point, I knew that sub-4 wouldn’t happen. Thanks to a tailwind for the past six miles, the heat was already getting to me. I was running a comfortable 9:15-ish pace, but my heart rate was wavering between 150-155, which is high Zone 4 for me. I backed off a bit to see if the heart rate would settle down, which it didn’t, even though this portion of the course was pretty flat; a couple of minor hills pushed me into Zone 5, even though I was backing off the pace.
- By mile 14, I kept thinking about the mantra – “It’s not who’s fastest, but who slows down least”. Folks were fading fast. Much faster than me. I was feeling good and was still positive on the outcome.
- Out along the flat of the river between miles 15-17, many folks were commenting on how surprised they were at how hilly the first half was. I was surprised last year, too, so I understand where they were coming from. If you run this race, IT IS NOT FLAT! Matter of fact, the hill during mile 18, especially after several flat miles, will kick your ass. Up until this point, I had only been walking the water stops. But starting at this hill, I had several unplanned walk sessions. I started feeling gentle cramping in the quads, but nothing debilitating. So I just kept running through it and keeping a close eye on things, backing off before things locked up on me. Here’s the profile of this year’s course, with 1,420’ of elevation gain and 1,525’ of elevation loss, for a net loss of 105’:
- Joining back up with the half-marathon crowd at mile 19.5 was interesting. So many on both sides of the street were walking. The only disappointing thing about the course changes was that it took away the most interesting view for me. Last year, we rejoined at about mile 18.5 and the way the courses were laid out, we ran straight at each other for half a mile before we turned and followed the same road. With such a huge difference in the number of runners between the half and full, it was a very surreal scene. But not this year.
- Just after mile 20, it was very, very tempting to turn right with the half marathon crowd and run the last 400 yards to the half-marathon finish line, ending the marathon at about 20.5 miles. But I wasn’t going to do that. The tide turned on me a bit through the next few miles as I started to get passed by more than I was passing. But I was still moving forward, unlike many others.
- The next few miles where where I really started noticing the heat casualties. The medical support crews were getting their workouts in, sprinting from one crumpled heap to the next. Most folks were OK, just needing to set down for a bit in the shade. But quite a few got rides to the hospital. The sirens were wailing for the last few hours that we were in the area.
- Several times over the last five miles, folks had hoses out. That really helped. The winds were gusty at this point, so any amount of water on the body helped cool me down. Honestly, at this point the heat wasn’t getting to me. I was overall pretty comfortable, since I was keeping myself soaking wet with cups of water and the hoses. At one point I even asked a guy if he’d be uncomfortable if I told him I loved him. He had a good laugh, which was the intent. The volunteers really rocked, standing out in the sun all day to make sure we were comfortable.
- The last mile was good. I called my mom, who was waiting at the finish line. I told here that I’d be there in about ten minutes. So I couldn’t disappoint. I started pushing the pace, really keeping the quads on the edge of cramping up. I turned the tide again and started passing people left and right. The crowds started getting thicker and completely lined both sides with about one-half mile left. They definitely helped me push the pace as hard as I could. The mile between 25-26 was a 9:05 and the last .2 mile was average 7:43, with the last hundred yards peaking at 6:22 and my heart rate deep into zone 5c (>167bpm). Another strong, strong finish. I just wish I knew where that energy was earlier in the race.
- Right after the finish I struggled to stay upright as mom pointed me towards the showers to cool down. They were a huge relief. I stood there for a few minutes and caught my breath, then moved to get my finisher’s medal. Right after the lovely lady put it around my neck, another lovely lady handed me two sponges that had been soaking in ice water. One went down the back of my shirt, one went down the front.
- CMM has a good post-run spread for the runners before releasing them “into the wild”. Lots of food and drink. And dozens of coolers full of ice-cold Cytomax, my preferred post-run beverage.
- Lots of sirens wailing in the distance.
- Goddess and my sister walked on in, finishing another half-marathon together. I know they weren’t comfortable, but I’m proud of both of them for pushing through and finishing in the heat.
- The porta-potty stop was funny. I spied two of them at mile 4.5 and bee-lined for them, even though it meant I had to cut across half the road (and the masses). I got there to find no line at all. Both porta-potties were shaking pretty violently. The doors flung open on both at the same time and two very, very portly police officers walked out. Turns out the porta-potties were setting on the edge of the wheelchair ramp for the corner, so they were not even. Standing in there was like standing in the back of a Greyhound bus as it speeds down the rough interstate. It was an experience.
- To the volunteer working at the water stop at mile 10, I am truly sorry. Just a few feet earlier, I was handed a cup full of Cytomax and ice. It was very refreshing. But I couldn’t eat the ice. I didn’t want to just drop the cup since someone would slip on the ice. So I looked for a break in the runners and a clear area to toss the cup off to the side of the road. So I did. What I didn’t see was the girl standing at the table. The cup hit the edge of the curb and shot ice up everywhere, which clearly surprised her. Again, I AM SORRY!
- Right before the two races split at mile 11.5, several guys had a beer table set up. I asked if they would be at mile 25, which they laughed at. Bastages. ;^).
- A few feet after the beer table, a couple was running with their recently acquired beer. Just as I passed, she dropped her cup right next to her, spraying beer all over my legs. Clearly she was the karmic twin of the water table lady. Damn that’s karma is a bitch.
- All along the course there were bands and cheerleading squads. Just after the half-marathon point, a cheerleading squad was in costume as the “Heffers”. They were wearing shirts and pants made to look like they were cows. Pretty funny. But girls, I must tell you that tying inflated surgical gloves on your belly to look like udders probably wasn’t the best thing to do. Just a thought.
- At the top of the long hill at mile 18, I saw and experienced something that choked me up. Everyone was walking or shuffling along. Off to the side stood a brother and sister, both aged right around 6-8 years old. They were standing side-by-side, holding out their hands to give the runners high-5’s. Every single runner that I saw completely broke their line in order to walk single file between the two of them and give them high-5’s. Awesome!
- At about mile 19.5, when both races were headed down the same street, but on opposite sides, I saw a family waiting for mom. The son, who was probably 8, was making some odd motions with his hands. As I got next to him, I saw that he was watching a caterpillar walk on his fingers. Very cool.
- At mile 21, a lady was cheering “If this were any easier, we’d call it football”. I laughed. Then a few miles later I laughed as I saw a guy headed out to the turnaround wearing a shirt with the same saying.
- At the water stop just before mile 25, a couple ran by and said “Hey, we did that race”. I was wearing my race shirt from my LBL 60K, mainly because it was so small and breathable. Apparently they had a different experience than I, because when I said that I had more fun there, the wife said “No way, there was too much mud”. I couldn’t have disagreed more. I never saw them again.
- My performance. Even though I was shooting for a sub-4 race and I didn’t get it, then shooting for any PR (and didn’t get it), I finished this course less than three minutes slower than last year, when it was rainy, cloudy and 20 degrees cooler. That right there proved to me that had conditions been similar, I would have crushed my PR.
- Fueling, hydration and electrolyte intake went very, very well.
- Nip Guards. I had never worn these before. I broke the cardinal rule and used something in a race that I had never used before. But given the forecasted temps, I knew that I couldn’t wear my standard tight lycra shirt under my running shirt. I’d roast (and likely would have DNF’d). So we saw these at the expo and grabbed them. They were great!
- I picked up a great shirt at the expo. It’s for a run that I wish I could participate in, but we’ll be in Germany. It’s The Bourbon Chase, a 200-mile relay race along the Bourbon Trail of Kentucky. Right through the mother lode of great American bourbon. The shirt is a great performance t-shirt, with the saying “Will Run for Bourbon” emblazened across the front.
The Bad - Other than the porta-potty lines at the start area, not much. But…
- Lots of people broke the cardinal rule of t-shirts, namely “Do not wear the shirt of the event that you are parcipating in, before you finish the race”. Not that I’m a stickler for such things, but for the marathon, that meant that the folks were wearing a black technical shirt. Granted, the shirt was very light and airy, but I’m absolutely sure that the black really heated those folks up. C’mon folks, spend the $15 for a light-colored singlet at the expo.
The Ugly – For me, not a single thing. But I am saddened by the death of a local Soldier, who collapsed and died right after finishing the half marathon. His mother and father were out from Montana and ran the half also, so they were both there when it happened. The medical authorities were adamant that it wasn’t heat related, first explaining that it was a “sudden cardiac event”. Reports today say that his lungs were filled with fluid. Regardless of the cause, a seemingly healthy young man’s life ended.
So that’s the race. In a very, very large nutshell.
With bands every mile and tons of cheering support over most of the course, I can definitely recommend this one. But be warned that it is a huge race, with over 31,000 people. And it’s expected to grow even more in the coming years.
If you do decide to do this race, I’ll leave you with this little hint:
– If you are parking, DO NOT follow the crowd and use the exits from I-24 next to LP Field; you’ll be in line for hours. Instead, take the I-40/I-65 exit for Charlotte Ave, then cut east across downtown and cross the Woodland Street Bridge (the same one you’ll run across later). I was able to pull straight into an empty parking lot right across the street from LP Field and right into a waiting shuttle bus. All told, the whole trip, from dropping Goddess, my mom and sister off until I was back with them, took me 30 minutes. Much better than the hour sitting in line just to get off the interstate last year.