Monday, November 12, 2012

Soldier Marathon 2012 Recap

Phew, what a relief to have this marathon in the history books! If you’ve ever experienced taper madness in the two weeks leading up to marathon, try adding an extra, unexpected week on top of that. The pent up anxiety will really have you climbing the walls.

I’m very happy with how the race turned out. My marathon PR was set back in 2003 during my senior year of college, so it was long overdue for an update. My finish time of 3:25:09 is a 10+ minute PR.

I was really impressed with the Soldier Marathon. While it was no NYC Marathon, it was a lot more than I was expecting. I’ve done races nearby at Callaway Gardens and was expecting something of that caliber….maybe a few hundred runners, lonesome stretches of trail running, and a few orange wedges and bottles water waiting at the end. Nothing wrong with that, just no pomp and circumstance.

Combined with the half marathon, the Soldier Marathon was a fairly decent sized event (about 2,000 runners total), and had a very professional feel to it. While I wouldn’t go so far as to advocate this as racecation destination, I would highly recommend it to runners in the Georgia/Alabama area. It had enough of production value to make it feel special, plenty of runners and cheerful spectators to keep things interesting, a variety of foods and beer at the finish, and even nice little touches like women's cut Nike dry-fit tees.

The Details:

The night before the race we stayed friends who live about an hour outside of Columbus. They were going to watch Emily which made it easier for us to get out of the house on time, but we hit a lot more local traffic than we expected near Ft. Benning. Once we parked the car, I had about 30 minutes to pick up my bib number, use the bathroom, and get myself situated. It was a little more chaotic than I would have liked, so my adrenaline was already pumping hard well before the gun went off.

My solution for carrying extra gels/chews

My goal for the race was just to break 3:30, and anything below that would be icing on the cake. I lined myself up slightly ahead of the 3:35 pace group, with the intention of staying just ahead of them for the first few miles.

The announcer said it was 40 degrees at the start, but I think it was lower. I normally love the cold, but I could see my breath, and my nose and eyes were watering.

The 3:35 pacer took it out quick, and instead of being in front of the group, I felt like I was working hard just to hang with them. A few minutes into the race I developed a side-stitch and a sloshing ocean-belly that continued to nag me for the first few miles. I was already doubting myself due to the extra week of taper, and this did nothing to help my confidence.

Add an extra ~30 secs to mile 9, my watch auto-paused there

Mile 5:
Nope, still wasn't finding my groove. Even though I was holding a steady pace and making progress on pulling away from the 3:35 group, I was severely doubting my ability to keep it up for another 20+ miles.

Miles 6-7:
One of my failures in previous marathons was my fueling strategy… in, I didn’t have one. This time around, the plan was to start taking in carbs early and often. I took my gloves off to get my first dose of Shot Bloks out of my pocket, and dropped the left glove in the process. I didn’t want to stop and go back to pick it up, so I just let it go. Then I tossed the remaining glove. Big mistake.

Oh gloves, why did I forsake thee?

Mile 9:
I could no longer ignore my bladder and the fact that I really had to use the bathroom again. And by “bathroom”, I mean a large tree to cop a squat behind. The marathon will make you redefine your sense of pride in every way.

My hands were completely frozen stiff. Cursing about the time I was losing, I struggled to pull my tights back up. I ended up tying the drawstrings in a big knot since my fingers couldn’t manage a bow. Exasperated, I shoved my iPod down the back of my pants because clipping it to my waistband required more dexterity than my Captain Hook hands could provide.

Mile 11:
My left shoe came untied. What mystical force causes a tight, double-knotted shoelace to come undone only during a race? Well, opposable thumbs aren’t something to take for granted. Tying a shoelace is rough when yours don’t work.

Miles 12-13:
I popped a couple more Shot Blocks and had a cup of Powerade at the next aid station. I came through the 13.1 mark around 1:44 and change. I figured it was over at that point, I was barely hanging on to 3:30 pace and was only halfway finished. I grabbed a pack of GU the volunteers were handing out, and gulped it down.

Miles 14-19:
It was like someone flipped a switch. There’s no other way to explain it, the sudden burst of energy was so dramatic. I finally felt warm and loose. Maybe it was the sugar hitting my bloodstream? The rising temps? The adrenaline rush knowing I was over the half-way point? Whatever it was, the pace suddenly began to feel easy and I had a renewed sense of confidence.

In a huge race like the NYC Marathon, the only thing mere mortals like myself race against is the clock. In a sea of thousands of runners, it doesn’t really matter to me what anyone else is doing.

However, being that this was a smaller race, there was incentive to pass other runners. I began targeting the ponytails off in the distance, and challenged myself to reel them in. I was also high-fiving spectators, cheering for the lead runners who were coming back in the other direction, and smiling for the cameras….

The miles clicked by, and I felt like I was on top of the world.

Mile 20:
Seeing this marker is always exhilarating. No matter what, even if you have to hobble, you know you’re going to finish once you see that marker.

Up until Mile 20, it’s a balancing act of pushing the pace but keeping enough in reserve to finish. With 6 miles to go, there's no little voice telling you to hold back anymore. It’s time to let it all hang out and give it everything you’ve got.

Miles 21-26:
After freezing in the beginning of the race, now it was getting HOT. There was no more tree cover, and the sun beat down on us. I broke out the last gel from under my hat, and gagged on the first mouthful. Despite taking in Powerade at every aid station after Mile 10, I was SO thirsty and it felt like a glob of glue in my mouth. Blech.

“Just keep putting one foot in front of the other” was the mantra on repeat in my head. I was hot, tired, and my lower back ached, but I never hit "the wall" the way I remember in previous marathons. I was almost done!

The last .2:


Instant gratification. They posted the results as soon as they came in.

Anxiously awaiting my turn

Chip time 3:25:09, 8th oa female, 2nd age-group

 Now I can give up running…well, at least for a few days :)

Monday, November 5, 2012

So, About That Marathon.....What's Next?

As you know by now, I did not run a marathon this weekend.

We were on the highway just north of Washington D.C. when our phones started blowing up with the news of the cancellation.

Up until that point it had been a pretty nice trip. Of all places, we lucked out and Mr. Blondie had a layover in North Carolina on Thursday night. It made a good half-way point to stop, and YAY! for a free hotel room. Emily and I slept in, had a nice breakfast, and waited at the hotel while Mr. Blondie flew back to Atlanta in the morning. His trip was over once he got there, so he just hopped on a flight back to N.C. to meet us. We continued on our merry way from there.

To be clear, I’m not upset at all that I didn’t get to run the NYC Marathon. Obviously the resources were needed elsewhere, and I’m glad to see it could be re-allocated.

What I am very upset about by the way it was handled. Us (now vilified) runners were working on Mayor Bloomberg’s bold reassurances of that everything could go on as planned. Sadly, those bold assurances were based on a hugely egregious miscalculation of resources. Hate the game, not the players. It was just an all-around crappy situation.

But as I said in my last post, this trip had two parts. We continued on after we got the news of the cancellation, and made it to my parents’ house in South Jersey. Em got to spend some time with her grandparents , and we got to drop off the supplies we brought.

It’s business as usual in South Jersey and their primary residence is fine. My parents were surprisingly zen about their situation on Long Beach Island. They’re still working simply with aerial photos, but whatever happened…well, it’s only stuff. It can be replaced. That’s why they pay for good insurance right?

The rest of our friends and family in North jersey and Long Island spent Sunday night drinking wine and eating pizza by the light of their generators, while streaming TV shows on their laptops. My inlaws will need to have the tree that crushed their garage removed. Others will need their siding or shingles replaced. Inconvenient? Yes. Extreme hardship? No.

Yep, they are very, VERY fortunate. So many others are still in dire need. The shore areas, Staten Island, Breezy Point, etc. were completely devastated and they lost EVERYTHING. It’s surreal to look at the pictures, and heartbreaking to hear the stories. My mom is bringing the supplies we brought with us to her church, who will in turn pass them on to the people who really need them. I know it’s only tiny drop in the bucket, but if enough people give, soon you have a full bucket.

Since there’s no way to smoothly transition to something that seems trivial and petty in light of what we just discussed, I’ll just jump right in. Talking about running doesn’t mean I have any less compassion for what’s going on in the Northeast.

So after getting word of the cancellation, I immediately pulled out my phone and started searching for alternate marathons within driving distance. I tried registering for the City of Oaks Marathon in Raleigh, but they were mobbed after the announcement. By the time I got to speak with anyone, the race had already sold-out. I also tried to get into the Manchester City Marathon in New Hampshire, but by the time the race organizer verified they could hold a bib for me, it was already too late on Saturday to make it there.

Instead, I’ll be running the Soldier Marathon this upcoming Saturday in Columbus. GA. womp womp

It's not what I had envisioned, but it means I still get to run a marathon. Waiting another few weeks to do a different one is just not in the cards. I have to note the organizers are being super gracious though. They are allowing displaced NYC Marathon runners to enter for FREE. How cool is that?!

So there you have it, The Marathon: Take 2, this weekend.