Flying Monkey Marathon
November 22, 2015
Once the Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon became popular the race director moved to a lottery format to chose the
stupid lucky participants. The selection involves a weighted randomization scheme and while I don’t know how the criteria is weighted, my belief that Question 8 has the “X-factor”.
8. Share with us any special information we should consider with your application to the race. Please understand that we are likely to read this with much scorn and ridicule. 140 character max!
I got a handful of nightlock waiting, just in case I don’t get picked
I was happy when the email arrived that I was selected! Out of the 354 runners selected, I was in the group of 13 who had completed The Monkey 5 times.
Before The Games
In attempt to be kind to my Lovely and Talented Wife, Jen, I secured transportation to Race Start. I was appreciative that Danny Staggs agreed to pick me up and take me to the Race.
The Staggs Family of Running is comprised of Danny, his wife Sandy, and their daughter Amanda. There are 2 things about The Staggs: 1) The 3 of them run a lot of the same races regardless of distance, sometimes they run together and 2) They are super-friendly (they know everybody) and always seem to be smiling (it must be their favorite).
It was cold but not terribly cold for packet pick-up. Inside this year’s packet was a FMM Magnet, FMM Sticker, FMM Tatoo, Runner-specific long-sleeved shirt, short-sleeved shirt, running bib & chip, and some promo items.
One of the awesome things about The Monkey, is the Runner-specific shirt. Not only does it have the runner’s name on the front, but it also has badges on the sleeve to show how many Monkeys the runner has completed (aka Monkey Kills). It’s just like how fighter pilots mark how many planes they shot down. This year, since I had 5 Monkey Kills, I was getting the “V”badge, since there’s just so much room on sleeves.
Another awesome thing about The Monkey is that you have a Bib Number For Life (if you can remember it). Mine is 438 and have this thing called, “Beat My Bib”. The premise is that I finish the marathon in under 4hrs 38 minutes. This is easier said than done, because I never know what my training will be for any given Monkey. I’ve done it once, back in 2012. I knew I wasn’t going to try to Beat My Bib because this was really a training run for the Pistol 50k which I was running on January 2nd 2016, about 6 weeks away.
At one point, while milling around at the Start line, someone brought around a box of hand warmers. The kind that you can hold in your hand and through the magic of a chemical reaction will stay heated “for up to 8 hours”. I grabbed a pack, I’m not exactly sure why, as I had never used them before, but it was cold despite my gloves.
Just before the start of the race, we had group pictures for Run It Fast, Marathon Maniacs (I’m MM#1225), and the Streakers (no, not that kind… that’s a different race) which are the people who have run ALL the Monkeys to date.
In the spirit of The Monkey Games (i.e. The Hunger Games) theme, race director extraordinaire, Monkey Trent, was dressed as Seneca from the movies including the fashionable facial hair.
Then, The Tenth Annual Monkey Games begun.
The First Half
I ended up running the first half of the marathon with Danny and Sandy Staggs. Amanda, who was at the race, was running with a friend. We took each mile and hill as it came. Danny and Sandy (if you start singing, Grease is the word) knew just about everyone out there on the course. We talked about just about everything. The 3 of us were seasoned runners and shared some of the weird predicaments have found ourselves during races. Fun stuff. I never really paid attention to my pace, I just hit the watch at each mile marker to mark the time.
The weather was in the temperature band where it was sometimes too hot for hat/gloves and sometimes too cold for them. I kept taking off and putting back on my gloves as the temperature changed. What I didn’t expect was how AWESOME the hand warmers turned out to be during the race. They weren’t too hot as to keep me too warm and they were kept safe inside my gloves when didn’t have them on. Since I carry a water bottle, when I had my gloves on, I stuck them on the back of my hands for comfort… and it worked!
Sometime early in the race, my ankle decided it wasn’t happy. It didn’t hurt but I could tell something wasn’t right.
The Second Half
Some how at the water stop at Mile 13, I lost track of the Staggs. When I passed the half way sign, I couldn’t find them. So I focused ahead, back to the race.
Food, during any long distance run, is important to manage. Too little and you’ll feel hungry. When you feel hungry, running is more difficult, mentally at first then physically as the energy stores drain. Too much and you’ll feel uncomfortable. This type of running can have negative effects as the body is trying to process the food in the stomach while also trying to run. The wrong type of food, and well, you might see it again from one end or the other. This is one of the reasons for marathon maxim of “No New Foods” a couple of days before and during the race.
The food and drink that I carry with me during long distance races usually consists of 4 Accel gels, 1 pack of Clif Blox (Margarita), and a 24oz bottle of sports drink. It’s a reused Gatorade bottle with a wide screw-off lid which makes it easy to refill in the race plus I don’t mind ditching it at the end, if I want to look good for the pictures.
For this Monkey, I had my bottle, a pack of Clif Blox, and ziploc bag of apples. I didn’t carry any gels with me and broke the Maxim by trying the Huma gels (made with chia seeds) while out on the course. The Huma gels weren’t too bad. Because of the chia seeds, they had a consistency different from the traditional gels but I eat chia seeds just about every morning so it wasn’t a shock for it to feel different. I don’t recall which flavors I had, but they weren’t bad. I would use them again.
The sports drink on the course was SWORD, something else that was brand new to me. I could drink it well enough when I chose it over water at the water stops.
Some where around Mile 17, I was starting to get hungry and the Clif Blox that I had with me were not appealing. At the next aid station, I contemplated eating some Krispy Kreme, but decided against the sugary deliciousness of the fried rings of gluten. I ended up grabbing a stack of Pringles, which I don’t think were Gluten-Free, but when I have had small amounts of gluten after races, I haven’t felt any side effects (cloudy thinking, sleepiness) but that might be confounded with the fatigue side effects from the running.
Apart from drying out my mouth a little, the Pringles hit the spot. I was satiated, at least for a few miles. So with my mind off of food for a little while, it drifted to where it usually likes to go when it can… to mathematics.
By Mile 20, I had figured out that I was in good shape to finish in under 5 hours. I wasn’t running this race for time, but I was beginning to change my mind. If I could keep my average pace under a 12:15 mile pace, then I would finish. However, at Mile 20, the hills are not done. It was at this point that shifted from “training run” mentality to Race Mode. Under 5 hours was now my goal, and the race was now afoot.
My ankle which had felt different at the beginning of the race hadn’t gotten better nor worse. Something was up with it, it wasn’t happy but it was complying with running.
At Mile 23, I was still in great shape for under 5 hours. I had added some time to “the time bank” and could spend it if needed. When I’m in Race Mode as it gets closer to the finish, I begin to look at runners ahead of me as prey. Who can pass before the finish line? Sometimes they are runners who started ahead of me but have slowed down for some reason and pose no threat, but the ones I have to watch are the ones that are close to my pace. Those are the hard ones to catch, because even if I can close the gap they may still have plenty of juice to match my kick at the end and stay ahead of me.
One runner seemed to be the one to beat and I had about 3 miles to do it. Challenge Accepted. I kept the runner in my sights as we went over the hills and around the curves. I lost some time when I stopped at the last aide station where I filled up my water bottle and stretched my legs. Ankle still an issue, but intact.
At Mile 25, the runner that I had been tailing was too far away. I would have had to increase my pace too much to close the gap. However, there were still people ahead of me meandering towards the finish line.
The first and last 3/4 of a mile or so is off the road and on a grassy area of Percy Warner Park. You can see the runners who are making the approach to the finish line and if you know what someone is wearing or know their running posture you can identify them.
There are two massive evergreens that shield you from being seen as you pass behind them. In a moment of vanity, I stopped behind the first one to stretch my legs one last time to maximize any energy I had left in them before they turned into stone pillars. One of the volunteers that was there was chastising me that I had stopped so close to the Finish Line. Just Keep Moving! I told them that even if had just a little left in my legs, I didn’t want to “look” like I had little left.
As I rounded the last tree with roughly 0.15 of a mile until the Finish. You can see the Finishing Chute from there and the Time clock as well. It would be under 5 hours for me today.
In my races, I have a mental process of figuring out at what point I can start running at maximum effort and still make the Finish Line. I process through how my body is feeling, add in my fatigue level, and a couple other factors. Then when ready, my mind tells my body “Go For Throttle Up” a NASA Space Shuttle command that I explain in a previous post.
I started lengthening my stride as much as I could and felt the increase in speed noticing for the first time that there is a slight downhill slope toward the Finish Line. I also remembering thinking that my ankle didn’t feel bad at all, how interesting.
I finished in 177th (out of 321) place with a finishing time of 4:54:30 [Chip Time] for my 6th Monkey Kill.
Another wooden Finisher’s medal (wooden) which was a pin style instead of over the neck. Also Finisher’s receive a customized SiliPint which is handy for the Yazoo Brewing tent located at the Finish Area. We stayed this year for door prizes which I scored a handmade Flying Monkey hat.
Later that day, my ankle became very sore. During the night, I could hardly walk on it without limping. However, my visit with my chiropractor on Monday put it right and haven’t had any problems with it.
There’s was no waiting to see what the 2016 theme will be, it will be The Year Of The Monkey!