“Remember, this is a training run” – That’s what Goddess told me as we were driving to Nashville early, early Saturday morning. She’s a good egg, keeping in mind that I typically have great training runs and just don’t live up to my expectations on race day. So a training run it was.
We waited until the day before to go to the expo, even though they recommend that the locals avoid the rush and go on Thursday. But since my parents and sister were driving up Thursday and my sister had to pick her packet up, we waited until Friday. That was our first clue about how big this race was. We’ve never seen so many folks wandering around downtown Nashville.
The expo was an expo. Lots of ways to spend lots of money, if one’s so inclined. We did pick up a few magnets – “Will Run for Beer“, “Will Run for Wine“, “Running – Cheaper than Therapy” and “26.2 – Been There, Run That“. Gotta have some fun, right?
In the middle, we ran into a road block. At first we couldn’t figure out why, then I spied Denise Austin. So Goddess and I got in line to meet her, since she’s a fixture in this house. Actually, it’s a love/hate relationship. We love to follow her stretching routines and Goddess hates every time Denise says “One more time” during the workouts, because Goddess knows it’s a lie.
So here we are with Denise. Too bad I couldn’t work it out so I was the filling. 😉
With Nashville only 50 miles away, we stayed home. Next time we think we’ll get a room in town, since it required a 3am alarm to get to the start line on time. A heavy, heavy rain and thunderstorms on the drive down really made for an upbeat drive (yeah, right). Then the horrible race traffic at LP field, which was backed up quite a bit on the interstate and some folks sat in line for over an hour.
This is where the Race Director really screwed the pooch. Instead of organizing police officers to direct traffic, the intersections at the top of the off-ramps were just flashing red lights. Imagine cars delivering 30,000+ racers and their families, all trying to converge on the same place at the same time. It just didn’t work. And where the 7,000 parking spots at LP field were sufficient in year’s past, it wasn’t even close this year. So lots of folks were ticketed and/or towed, according to news reports. The RD’s got a lot of thinking to do before next year’s event.
Anyway, the rain continued. Luckily enough I had enough foresight to grab some lawn bags to throw over us, so we stayed dry while we waited for the shuttle bus to get us to the start area across town, while we stood in line for the porta-johns (which didn’t have TP by the time we got there [AAARRRRGHHHHH]) and then stood in our corrals at the start line. The rain stopped right before the start, so I was able to toss the bag aside.
I was in corral 6, which was for the folks that were looking for a sub-4:00 finish. Did I have any business being in that corral? Probably not, but that’s where I thought I’d be when I signed up for this race back in December.
The gun went off for the elites right at 7am and it took me only 10 minutes to get to the start line. The RD did a great job of staggering the corrals so that we didn’t get all jammed together in the opening miles. The opening miles were nice and steady and I initiated my run/walk strategy just like I had been doing in training – run six minutes/walk 30 seconds. Lots of well-meaning folks were cheering me on, telling me to not “give up” yet whenever I stopped to walk.
Four miles into it and I finally felt warmed up and settled in to my pace. Right around 10K, I started feeling the joys of not having TP at the start and lucked upon several porta-johns that were well-stocked, with no waiting. So my average pace suffered, but in the long run I know it was for the best.
Solid, steady pacing for the next 10 miles. I hit the halfway point at 1:58, so I was on pace for a sub-4:00. I was feeling quite strong at that point, which fit into my plan of slowly ramping up the pace and pushing a negative split. I was poised well.
At mile 15 I felt a little bit of stomach pain. Nothing significant, but I’ve had enough issues in that arena to recognize the onset. So I settled back a bit and let it work itself out, which it did by mile 17. Which just happened to coincide with the longest hill of the course, located between miles 17-18. That’s when the wheels started to wobble a bit, but I didn’t worry about it. Pushing through that, mile 19 felt good, back down at a comfortable pace.
Mile 20 is when the wheels came off. And that’s when a sub-4:00 slipped by me, both figuratively and literally – I watched with slight dismay as the 4:00-pacer slowly passed by with a group in tow. The cumulative climbing caught up to me, as it did with a lot of people by this point. From here on out, my pace swung from 11:23 to a 14:07 mile 23. I didn’t bonk – even with the gastro issues earlier, I had been fueling right from the start at regular intervals, since I carried my fuel with me instead of relying on the water/food stops.
As you can see, mile 23 was the worst point. I hit a section where both quads locked up on me, so it was some ginger walking for a little while. This cramping surprised me, since I was taking Endurolytes religiously throughout the event and had even loaded up on electrolytes for the previous several days in an effort to stave off any cramping. But as you can see, I was able to work it out and started ramping up the pace for the last few miles.
Once the sub-4:00 goal slipped away, I started thinking about my standing PR. Even through the rough points I knew I was going to set a new PR, so it was a matter of by how much. My next floating goal was to break 4:15, but that slipped by too. Then it was to break my standing PR by over an hour, which was still within reach over the until mile 24. By then I knew I’d have to crank out two 7:00-miles to achieve it and that just wasn’t going to happen. But as you can see, I was able to ramp it up for those last two miles.
I was worried about cramping again, especially as I approached the finish chute. Crossing the 26-mile point, I kept looking at my Garmin and wondering if I was going to break 4:30. I wasn’t sure, since the Garmin turned off on me for less than a minute early on (between miles 3-4). That last two-tenths of a mile was uphill and then a hard left turn. I kept accelerating up the hill and made that turn, throwing all caution to the wind. My Garmin clocked me at a 6:15/mile pace for that last tenth of a mile and the legs locked right after I crossed the line. My Garmin told me 4:29:02, but I knew it was more than that. So I had to wait until I got home to find my official time, which was 4:29:47.
A new PR by over 56 minutes.
|6084 • Bill Anders • M-39 • Marathon •|
|Gun: 7:00:30 AM||5k||6Mi||10Mi||Half||20Mi||Finish||O’All||Sex||Div|
|Chip: 7:10:42 AM||28:11||54:12||1:31:28||3:10:49||4:29:47||2294||1509||260|
– At about mile two, a lady motioned ahead of me and said “Well, that’s something to see”. It was a “guy” wearing nothing but running shoes and a pair of hot pink daisy dukes. We saw him post-race at during our feed at Baja Fresh. Luckily he had changed, but I wanted to ask him if he had any chafing.
– Watching the blind runner and his guide, working smoothly as a team as she described the neighborhood so he could “see” where he was running. I reminded me of riding through the Hill Country of Texas with a blind rider while the captain on his tandem described the springtime scenery to him. I know he enjoyed the scenery just as much as we did.
Off-topic plug: For those of you looking to put in some serious early-season bike mileage, I cannot recommend Nick Gerlich’s “Texas Hell Week” enough. A non-supported, but highly organized event, you can meet and ride with cyclists from all over the world who are looking to build a significant base by riding 500-800 miles in eight days. You’ll be amazed that you can do it and after the initial saddle pain of the first three days, you’ll be sprinting up hills and flying along the flats on day seven. But if Texas doesn’t fit your schedule, he’s started up several other Hell Week’s that might work for you. It’s been nine years since I’ve taken part, but I have no doubt that it’s still a quality event.
– At about mile four, the leaders went by on the other side of the street. Impressive to see the leaders, who were now about three miles ahead, even though they started only ten minutes before me.
– At about mile 14, we turned and headed up a hill, which was located right in front of a church. Lined up along the hill were several dozen nuns, replete in their habits, cheering on the runners. Lots of hoots, hollers, and high-fives, as well as a water stop advertising cups of holy water. I should’ve grabbed one, since it was just a while later when the stomach started feeling wonky.
– Right at mile 18, we started heading downhill, which gave a great view of the oncoming masses running the half-marathon. We had split at mile 11 and now we were about to meet up again. With about 21,000 in the half-marathon compared to 5,000 in the marathon, there was a huge difference in runner density. Plus, right about this point I saw the helicopter hovering near LP Field, knowing that the elites were finishing up their races. I cursed.
– While Brian had to sing to himself, we had bands scattered all along the course. Some of the music was memorable, some was not. But as Brian would attest to, there’s a point in a run where one must sing the chorus from “Just a Gigolo”. Come on, you know how it goes – “I ain’t got no body“. Brian, you would have enjoyed the band at mile 23, who decided to play the song and I managed to time it to be right in front of the stage just as they got to the chorus. What a boost.
– Immediately following the “Gigolo” chorus, we met with the Hash House Harriers water/beer stop. For the first time in my life, I bypassed the beer table. I was focused.
– Climbing a small hill in mile 25, a guy was in the shade, holding a sign for his wife/girlfriend. It said “Lisa – Run! Dick Cheney’s right behind you!” I asked if Dick had a shotgun.
– Meeting with Goddess and my sister as they finished their half-marathon. After I made it through the chute, turned in my chip and grabbed some food, I called to find them. They still had a couple of miles to go, so I started walking towards them. I found some shade and then had a lot of fun cheering on folks in both the half and full. I walked with Goddess and my sister for a while, then cut the course to meet them at the finish. A bit of loud, obnoxious cheering and then some shame – I started running next to them and yelled “Hey, if I can do this, so can you“. So they ran to the finish line.
– Afterwards, my sister saw an old guy, with cane and race number, sitting off to the side. She went up and talked to him and found out that he is 88 years old and had walked the half-marathon in his walking shoes, slacks, button-up shirt and carrying an old cassette player so he could listen to his Elvis tape while he walked. He cruised, finishing the course in a time that Goddess and my sister were jealous of.
– Overall, a good race. I rolled into this one injury-free and rested, even though the previous weeks had been pretty hectic and stressful.
– While I’m very pleased with setting a PR with such a large margin, I’m still bugged by the cramping issues that seem to plague me at every long event. But that gives me room for improvement, right?
– Mentally, I made several breakthroughs during this race. One of the most significant was knowing that I could push myself harder through the pain in the closing miles. A lot of that came from running a strong double-long weekend as well as several other long runs these past few months.
All-in-all, a good day.