The Quad Cities Marathon has been on my bucket list for a while now. It was my first choice in pursuit of 50 States (i.e. running 1 marathon in each of the 50 states +DC) for Illinois, but the reasons are much deeper than just checking something off a list.
For all practical purposes, Petersburg VA, is my “hometown” because that was my childhood home. It was where I went to Elementary school, High School and my home base for when college wasn’t in session. However, it was not my first home. My origin started in Davenport IA (one of the Quad Cities) and was my first home for a few years though I have no recollection of it. I moved to Virginia due to a change in the family structure.
Delicately, I have 2 Dads, the late Bob Tripp and the illustrious Pete Higgins. As a result, I have the Tripp and the expansive Allbee (My Aunt) family in the Quad Cities. So running the marathon will be a sort of homecoming, to run among my family, in the place were I was born and to add a extra factor of coolness ON the day I was born.
In 2006, we lost Bob Tripp, I had dreams of him watching me run a Quad Cities Marathon. We would travel to Iowa so that he could meet his grandsons and I could run the race. I imagined him cheering me on and maybe even riding along with me for a short bit in his electric wheelchair. I “think” he had engineered his chair to get more horsepower because he could get movin’ in that thing. Unfortunately, the last race that involved him, was the race against time to get to Iowa as quickly as possible because his body was failing fast. Due to his service in the Air Force, he is buried in the Rock Island National Cemetery located on the Rock Island Arsenal.
When I looked at the course for the Quad Cities marathon in 2007, I noticed something remarkable. As the marathon crosses Rock Island (One of the Quad Cities), it passes through the Rock Island Arsenal but what jumped out was that it passed the cemetery near Mile 20. Mile 20 is the legendary location where a runner’s willpower is tested. It is late in race and to some it feels like they hit an imaginary “wall”. However, for some snarky runners, the Mile 20 mark is “just the end of a 20 mile warm up and the start of a 10k (6.2 miles) race”. The 2014 course passes the cemetery just after Mile 19 for the Marathon and Mile 12 for the Half Marathon. So, poetically, at the point where my willpower is supposed to be tested, I can suck it up and give a good showing (with maybe a wave and blow a kiss) as I pass the cemetery.
From my father situation, I have The Brothers Tripp, the late Chris and the engineer extraordinaire Jeff. As far as I can recall, Chris never got to see me run. In 2012 when I ran the Georgia Marathon in Atlanta, he had gone to New Orleans that same weekend. Then in 2013, he was gone. This year, I get to start the race with Jeff! He will be running the half and I get to share the course with him until the halfers break off (at mile 8) to head for the finish. I am VERY excited about this chance to run with Jeff!
When I cross the finish line at the Quad Cities Marathon, it will be my 24th marathon finish in my 7th state. I am planning on running a Guess My Time, Win Crap contest for you to play at home but that will be under a separate post, closer to Race Day. In the meantime, I am in the works of another blog post that reminiscences about my training for this marathon.
This was my 11th Expo race, the 10th consecutive one for the 10k flavor. My very first Expo in 1998 was the 5k distance when I was but a noob runner. I had only started running 3 months prior. The Expo is a long standing race in the Knoxville area with a choice of a 5k or 10k distance, this year was the 37th running of the Expo. It has had different sponsors throughout the years (like News Sentinel Expo) as well as different course routes. Here’s a picture from 1981-82 when it started on Gay Street downtown.
This year the sponsor was Panera Bread (hence Panerathon) with benefits of the race going to one of our local food banks, Second Harvest.
Expo 10k PR Time 51:11 (but not for this particular course)
2 weeks leading up to Expo, I started a Sugar Detox eating change in an effort to lower my sugar cravings and cut back on my sugar intake. Expo fell on Day 13 out of 14. If you were to ask me a week before I started my detox, “Hey Terry, what do you think your Expo finishing time is going to be?” I would have replied, “about 52-53 minutes”.
However, I was having some energy and leg hurting problems. You can look at the archives for May 2014 and see my blog entries for my detox. Leading up to Expo, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be under an hour. I had come to peace with the change in finishing time because of my detox, it just was a timing (pun intended) issue.
As with just about every KTC race that I run, I sought out a volunteer spot I could do before the race and still run the race. This time is was Course Setup: Water Stop Edition. I helped fill the big coolers of water and gatorade and take them out to the spots on the course. Apart from getting wet trying to handle the leaky coolers, it was straightforward work and earned me another coupon to go toward a future race. Also, I knew exactly where they were located on the course beforehand.
One of my taekwondo friends was going to be running the race and looking to finish under an hour. So, I figured that I might hang with him as long as I could. For anonymity sake, since I haven’t asked permission to use his likeness, we’ll just call him, Mr. P for now. I found Mr. P hanging out in the courtyard and we chatted for a while waiting for the race to begin.
Earlier in the week, one of my runner friends posted on Facebook about something call a sQoosh. It was some sort of wristband, sweat picker-upper type of thing and I commented that I would probably like it because I sweat profusely. I was even thinking about using it more for taekwondo because I’m like a faucet after sparring with my gear. To my surprise, he sent me one to try out and it arrived Friday, just in time.
This year’s course was something quite different. Instead of going down the long hill, we were going to go up it… twice. It was a two loop course, with running up a fairly challenging hill right at the start and then again in the middle. Just how I like it.
I noticed that there seemed to be ALOT less people at this race than last years. Looking at the Results Section on the Knoxville Track Club website, there were 878 finishers for both races in 2013 and only 679 finishers in 2014, so it was a big difference.
We had the National Anthem, the runner’s count and then we were off. I was going to try to run with Mr. P, but in about 20 yards, he was ahead of me and I thought it would be better for me to conserve at the start and let him go on ahead.
I struggled a bit up the first big long hill, I just didn’t have the energy to surge up the hill. At the top of the hill, the fact that I had been hydrating well became reality and I soon started looking for places that I could ditch and do my business. I peeled off and took nature’s call. Since I wasn’t concerned too much about time, i worked my way out of the brush and got back into my pace.
The first loop went well, or rather I didn’t die. On the way up the long big hill for the second time, I just churned my legs. Something weird was happening on this second loop, my shoulders and arms were starting to hurt, like hurt-hurt, painful hurt to move them. Then at the water stop, I was feeling my legs getting heavier and heavier. It was a struggle back over the Henley Street bridge.
At this point, there was a little more than mile in the race and I wasn’t sure how I would do. My legs were lead weights and my arms were aching badly. I saw my friend Mr. P up ahead and realized that both of us were going to make under an hour. The turn off Henley Street was a slight up hill and I didn’t had the energy to maintain my pace and slowed down.
I kept up a slow but steady pace, basically all that I could muster until the Mile 6 marker and made my assessment of how much I had left in the tank. I was in quite a bit of pain in my arms, and my legs still felt heavy. On the last turn with a little more than 0.1 mile left, I made my plan.
My plan was that I would start my ‘kick’ with about 50 yards left to go. I would bump up my pace and if I had anything left, I would open the throttle.
After the turn, I had to hold back because even though I was hurting, I was all-business. I saw runners ahead of me and I wanted to pass them, but I couldn’t kick from the turn, there was too much course left. I didn’t want to overtake someone only to have them surge past me just before the finish line. One runner ahead of me was fading and I didn’t need to worry about him, I would pass him.
However, with about 300 feet left in the race, there were a couple of runners ahead that might be within my reach. I skipped the water stop that was about 250 feet from race finish (it also served during the race) and surged forward. I ended up passing one of my KTC friends who ALWAYS finishes before me (because she’s inherently faster) but was having a slow day. With just mere feet between me and the finish line, I surged past my friend Mr. P and then crossed the finish line just ahead of him. This was a race, not a fun run.
Chip Time: 56:06
Overall Place 184/404
Age Group 15/26
I will shed a little light on why I needed to do this Sugar “reset”. I am very much a chocoholic and this intervention, while I won’t abstain from chocolate in the future, will give me some proof that I don’t need to eat it 24/7 and to be aware of how much I eat.
Here are a few of the chocolates that are available with ease at my work along with some of the nutritional facts. There are other candies that are accessible, these are the main culprits.
Hershey Kisses (9pcs) – 210 calories, 12g total fat/7g sat fat, Carbs 25g (23g Sugar, 1g fiber), 3g Protein
Mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (5pcs) – 220 calories, 13g total fat/ 5g sat Fat, Carbs 26g (23g Sugar, 1g fiber), 4g protein
Mini Nestle Crunch (3pcs) – 180 calories, 9g total fat/ 6g sat fat, Carbs 25g (21g Sugar, 1g fiber), 2g protein
Mini Snickers (4pcs) – 170 calories, 8g total fat/3g sat fat, Carbs 22g (18g Sugar, 1g fiber), 3g protein
I don’t know how many pieces of chocolate that I happen to take in any given day. Sometimes it is less, sometimes it is more (especially if work is real stressful). For giggles sake, I am going to speculate that on average, I might get 24 pieces of chocolate, to make the math easier. 12 pieces before lunch and 12 in the afternoon. And it’s usually like 2-3 pcs when I go to the restroom or something like that, so it’s typically spread out over a few hours.
This totals to 861Calories, 49g total fat/23g sat fat, Carbs 105g (90g Sugar, 5g fiber), 15g protein
I’m going to use the 2,500 Calorie Daily Allowance values as I am a fairly active guy and by default need the extra fuel. So, just on this guess of chocolate alone, the chocolate eating accounts for 34% of Caloric intake, 61% of Fat, 92% of Saturated Fat and 28% Carbohydrates. Funny enough, there is no recommended daily allowance for sugar by itself, only total carbohydrates and fiber but not for sugar or protein. And this is for the day, not including breakfast, lunch, dinner and any other snacks.
So, the decision to make, is how much to allow back into my diet. I have that schedule for the content portion of Day 12 write up.
Day 9 – 5/20/14 Tuesday
It’s only 2 data points per category (the HORROR!) but the distances are the same routes, so that helps the comparison.
I’m not surprised at all, I fatigue faster, but while my body is slowing down, mentally I still feel strong. This is unlike what happens when someone hits “The Wall” (as in The Matrix, there is no spoon, there is no wall) where the physical and mental energy levels are at a low.
I ran 8x400m repeats and I couldn’t keep the pace very well, my best lap was a 1:50 min (7:20 min/mile equivalent) whereas earlier this year, I was able to run repeats in the 1:35 min time frame (6:20 min/mile equivalent). What does this really mean? I’ll speculate on it real soon.
It was a cold morning, something around 16F, which was about the temperature at the start of Flying Monkey. The Start/Finish of the race was on the property of Alcoa Middle School which allowed us to use their gym facility. So instead of hanging out in the car, or walking around outside, we could stay warm inside and be as relaxed as we could get. The Junior ROTC from Alcoa?? Middle School was the Color Guard to present the flag for the singing of the National Anthem. There were only a few pre-race announcements before we headed out to the get the race started.
The course for the Pistol Ultra consisted of an out-and-back configuration of two circles connected together, much like two lollipops connected stick end to stick end. A whole loop was approximately 11 miles and the 50k runners were to run 2 full loops and then an augmented out-and-back to complete the mileage.
The course loop was on entirely greenways with a few road crossings at various points along the loop. About 2/3rds of the course was on the Alcoa Greenway with the other third on the Maryville Greenway. The Alcoa Greenway has a more rural feel to it as it is follows closely beside Pistol Creek (Hence, the name of the race). Once the Greenway changes to the Maryville Greenway, it is a more urban flavor as it courses around the Duck pond of the great city of Maryville (which to pronounce correctly in East Tennessee sounds like “Murhh-vulle”).
I was pretty anxious walking around the race start, as this was my 50k race, were I to finish this race, I could be called an “Ultramarathoner”. However, with ALL races, no matter the length, there is electricity in the air and that tends to bends one’s focus away from trivial matters of finishing a race and more important things such as starting the race.
Go geared up with 2 packs of Clif Blox, 2 Accel gels, and a 24oz Gatorade bottle, I was ready to attempt my first ever, 50k.
Lap 1: The Good Lap (11 Miles – Total Time 1:47:23)
The strategy I had planned for the race was to run for 9 minutes and then walk for 1. The most important part of this would be that it would force me to slow down at the start of the race. The starter’s pistol released its yell and the race was afoot!
The strategy I actually followed was not what I had planned. Instead of using a run/walk strategy, I opted for the run until you can run no more strategy. What I was most concerned about was that I would be starting off too fast, thus having to take walk break sooner. It turned out that I did find a pace that was slower than my usual marathon pace, however, it would still be too quick. I would find that out in the next loop.
I was familiar with the course, as I ran these greenways in years past and that was to my advantage. The first couple of miles, as the greenway dropped down by Pistol Creek, the temperature must have dropped 5-10 degrees cooler. There were places along the greenway where water had pooled and frozen over and still frozen.
Once on the Alcoa greenway, the few hills on the course presented themselves to taunt the runners. However, short work was needed for these short hills. Part of the greenway ran alongside the back of some buildings and some curious people asked what was going on and how far we were going.
Passing the first aid station, I realized that I wasn’t really hungry, but I knew that I should eat nonetheless. I grabbed a half banana at the aid station and broke open my pack of Clif Blox. I ate two of the Clif blox around the turn around. Once I came back around to the aid station, I filled my gatorade bottle with some Strawberry HEED drink (but I do like Mandarin Orange HEED). It wasn’t all that bad, but it wasn’t all that great.
Lap 2: The Other Lap (11 Miles – Total Time 2:05:24)
Shortly into Lap 2, I started to take walk breaks. I had wanted to push back switching to run/walk as long as I could, but given this was going to be a new distance for me, I thought it better to be preemptive in saving my legs. I ran alone for most of this lap, but I could still see runners ahead of me.
I didn’t eat/drink much this loop either. I still wasn’t hungry and forced myself to drink and make sure that I had a full bottle of liquids with me at all times. At the water station, it was still cold enough that the table that held the cooler for us to get water/carbo drink was frozen over with a layer of ice from the liquids that spilled. I found out that I don’t particularly care for GU’s Lemon Lime carbo drink.
Lap 3: The Short One (9.06 Miles – Total Time 1:50:16)
Knowing that the last lap (for the 50k) was a shorter lap, even if just a short distance, was a mental boost. I had ditched my fleece outer layer. It was still cold down by the creek at spots, but most of the course was getting warm, at least enough to shed a layer. I could manage the colder temps with just a hat and gloves for the short term, then take them off without having to worry about overheating.
And then, I pasted the 26.2 mile mark with 4.8 miles yet to go. All I had to do was finish and could add “ultra marathoner” to my list of things people could call me (this better than some other things people call me).
Most of this lap, another runner and I were passing each other in a leap frog fashion. She would pass me, then start walking and I would pass her. Then I would start walking and then she would pass me. On the return leg of this last loop, when she started to pass me, she stopped and said, “Let’s finish this thing”. We chatted for the next 3 miles, taking much fewer walk breaks while maintaining a decent pace.
If you have read some of my race reports, you know that I am kicker when it comes to finishing race. In the last couple hundred meters, I will use up any excess energy to pass runners at the finish. I even practice this “fast finish” technique on some of my training runs. This was my first ultra and as I stress for first time marathoners, it is about finishing, not time. Enjoy the experience, don’t try to kill yourself at the end, you automatically get a PR and unless you are battling for an award, don’t worry.
Official Time: 5:43:12
28th out of 80 50k finishers
What was strange about this race, I realized is that my food and drink consumption was nothing like other races and I’m not sure why. Usually in a marathon, I will eat 4 to 5 packs of gels, a pack of Clif Bloks, Fruit on the course (if available) and will drink at least 5 or 6 refills of water that I carry (bottle is 24oz). For this race, I didn’t finish one Clif Blok pack, I had zero gels, I did have bananas at the aid stations totaling maybe a full sized banana (or just a little more). To drink, I only had 4 bottles of drinks. I never really felt hungry or thirsty while out on the course
This was the longest time, by about 2 minutes, that I had ever ran in one day. My previous record was 5:41:10 at the 2010 Flying Monkey Marathon.
So now the question is would I do another ultra marathon. The answer is yes, I would. However, I highly doubt it would be much further than a 50k.
Kim Hale won the Guess My Time, Win Crap – Pistol Ultra Edition with her guess of 5:42!
It’s Back (RUN, RUN AWAY!) the GUESS MY TIME, WIN CRAP contest. The premise is straightforward, be the person with the closest guess of my official finishing time and win random stuff crap. Guesses can be left here on the blog, via Twitter, via Google+, or via Facebook.
Random info to give you assistance in guessing or Analysis Paralysis:
Haven’t run this race yet, in fact, I have never run this particular race distance. Furthermore, I have never run this far… ever!
Here’s an excerpt from the non-Pulitzer winning race report for the 2012 Chickamauga Marathon:
“It was so nice to get to chat with Susan while actually running and not on via the intertubes. I told her I doubted I would ever run an ultra marathon (a race greater than 26.2 miles) because at that point I had logged in about 28 miles and felt like crap. Of course, that was just crazy talk… I think there’s a 50k in me. :)”
“MONKEY!” – Race Director Trent Rosenbloom (Monkey Trent, Bib # -1) starting the race instead of firing a starter’s pistol.
It’s a long wait from the beginning of August, finding out that you won the lottery, to donning an official Flying Monkey Racing Bib on race day. This year, I was one of 24 runners (7%) who had ran four previous Monkeys (2008, 2009, 2010, 2012). I’ve run a couple other venues multiple times including Richmond Marathon (1999, 2000, 2001, 2002).
The trip to Nashville includes a visit to the Adventure Science Center where The Boys can run around like the crazy kids they are. In 2012, we went to the Science Center after the marathon and somehow I managed. I was very grateful that we were going before the marathon. Also part of the Monkey Tradition, we stay at the Candlewood Suites near race start because it’s fairly reasonable and plenty of space for The Boys to stretch out and more importantly, Jen and I get to watch some Football on TV.
I wasn’t able to get a ride to the Race Start, so Jen and The Boys had to drop me off at the race venue (Percy Warner Park). I had the impression that the Race Started at 7:30 when in actuality it started at 8:00. So while I was early, I got to hang out, walking around in freezing temperatures (about 19F) for about 45 minutes. As it got closer to race start, the people began to show up and soon the pre-race pictures were taken. We got our last minute race instruction from Monkey Trent and then to start the race, he didn’t fire a starter’s pistol but yelled one word, “MONKEY!”
One of the drawbacks of running the same race, especially a long distance race, the different races tend to blend together. However, sometimes there is something, maybe just one thing that stands out. This year, it was the cold. I was cold from my head to my feet, especially my feet. It felt like I had extra socks crammed down in my shoes. Turns out my toesies were numb and it took about 2.5 miles for them to finally warm up. Once they were warm, everything felt normal. I even took off my outer shell jacket to help regulate my temperature.
I didn’t train like I wanted between the Darlington Marathon on September 28th and the Flying Monkey. As a result, I guessed that I would finish somewhere between 4:45 and 5:00 if everything went well.
Besides the cold temperature, the wind was brisk, not strong but enough that you really didn’t want to be in it if possible. Almost all of the course is protected by the trees and the ‘Big Hills’ that the course was laid upon. I did see a family that was having a photo shoot, out in the cold, in the wind… in the cold. They were gone when I came back around, so I don’t know how their photoshoot went.
One of the neat things about the Flying Monkey is currently, the bib number you get running your first Monkey stays with you… forever. For me, it is #438 and I have my own little game that I call, Beat The Bib. In this game, I, Terry run the Flying Monkey in less than 4 hours and 38 minutes. However, as the higher miles passed by, I realized that I would finish within the time frame that I thought and not Beat The Bib.
The last 1/4 of a mile or so of the course is off road, as you head off the roads in the park and head to the finish line. This year, I was alone when I left the asphalt, both in front of me and behind. I’m usually sizing up the runners ahead of me to see who I can pick off in the last tenth of a mile of the race while at the same time conscious of people behind me to avoid them doing the same to me. Without any runners around me to worry about, it was just me and the clock battling it out. As I inched nearer to the finish line, the clock kept counting, taunting me that I had not Beat My Bib this year.
Soon enough my running of the 2013 Flying Monkey Marathon was over. I was finished. I went straight to the nearest volunteer that I saw holding the finishers medal, so that I could be knighted as a finisher. For the second year in a row, finishers were given a Silipint Cup with the race logo. A Silipint is a silicon pint glass, I didn’t use last year’s mug much at all. The 2013 mug, I use on a daily basis.
My official finishing time was 4:46:02 and I was the 167th finisher out of 311. I was the 25th male of the 40-44 age group out of 28. My split times are as follows: 9:44, 9:37, 9:21, 10:21, 9:29, 10:31, 8:44, 11:09, 9:55, 10:30, 10:07, 10:28, 10:30, 11:03, 11:36, 10:20, 10:39, 11:05, 12:07, 14:00, 11:40, 12:05, 12:52, 12:52, 11:32, 12:10, 1:35
[editor's note: Thanks to my wife for helping me in my old age, as I forget significant things. Hence the post-race Soccer with The Younger]
Not more than 1 minute after crossing the finishing line, getting my medal, my Silipint and congratulations from My Lovely and Talented Wife, The Younger came up to me and asked if we could play soccer. I was still breathing hard and thought to myself, “Oh, in my current condition.” But then I thought, “Well, I am still able to move… if I rest now, there would be no way to start again.” So, I replied to The Younger’s question with “Sure.”
As part of the runner’s packet, each runner was given a cape with the year’s Race Logo. a couple of runners wore their cape during the race. I didn’t want the cord rubbing my neck for a couple of hours, so I took Edna’s advice… “No, capes.”
Each runner is given a custom shirt personalized with your “race name” on the breast (it’s tough to see on the previous picture) and on the sleeve, the number of previous Monkeys you have ran previous to Race Day. As mentioned above, I had already ran the Flying Monkey 4 times… and there is the proof. Next year, I will get 5x Monkey Kill Badge… if I get a win in the lottery.
“Instead of spanks, I got kilometers” – Terry Higgins on running a marathon (42.2 kilometers) on his 42nd birthday
I wasn’t sure what to expect for the Inaugural 2013 Darlington Marathon. The 2 things that I really knew was that is was a Venue Race (meaning there was a significant location for the finish line) and that it would be on my birthday. When it was announced that it would be run on my birthday, I was thinking that I had never run a race on my birthday and how cool would it be to do it. I had ran Big South Fork 17.5 mile Trail Race a couple of times around my birthday because it falls around my birthday weekend, but had never done it.
The marathon would be run in Darlington, SC with the finish inside the Darlington Raceway. Darlington, SC is located about an hour away from My Lovely and Talented Wife’s hometown of Loris, SC making it somewhat convenient on the traveling aspect. And as it happened, the marathon was one part of our trip to South Carolina. We drove to Loris on Thursday and then backtracked to Darlington on Friday afternoon. The Boys decided to stay in Loris (we did offer a choice) so they could spend time with their cousins.
It turned out that we would be able to see my long time friend “Like the color” Gray, who was the person to introduce me to running races way back in 1998. We figured out that it had been a very unacceptable 7 years since we had seen each other at his wedding. Not by choice, but circumstances, we had been unable to meet up. His boy was 22 months old for crying out loud! But he was willing to bring Son of Gray with him on a 2 hr road trip (start’em early) to hang out with us. Not only was it incredibly good to see him and meet Son of Gray, but someone recognized him in the lobby of the hotel from his home area. This person turned out to be my transportation to Race Start, allowing Jen to sleep in and not haul me off to the Raceway early in the morning.
After a delightful dinner, we headed back to the hotel and I got all my pre-race stuff out and lined up for the morning. I pre-pinned my GUs that I had accumulated from previous races onto my shorts. I used Rock Tape on both my hamstrings and quads. 2 weeks prior, I had done something which made my right hamstring really tight. I lost a lot of flexibility (not that I much to begin with) and even chose not to run my last long runs because I didn’t want to perpetuate the injury. Thankfully, earlier in the week, my leg had beginning to feel better and I had even ran on it on Wednesday without any issue. However, I wanted the extra precaution and taped my quads.
Waking up early, to assure that I wouldn’t oversleep, I finished getting the rest of my gear on and listened to some music while cutting pre-race apples to eat. With food in my belly, I grabbed my 2 water bottles that I would carry during the race and headed down to catch my ride. I’m thankful for Jamie for bringing me to race start even if the GPS wasn’t all that helpful, we figured it out. She kept apologizing for getting turned around, but it was all good. Darlington isn’t that big enough to get lost, the raceway was a huge blazing beacon in the predawn morning and I have been late to races before (walking to a start line during the National Anthem – Yes, I’m a unAmerican bastard for doing that; Starting another race 26 minutes after actual race start because I was setting up the course).
We made it, with loads of time to spare. I headed up to packet pick up to discover that I was actually a 42 year old Female! Clerical error, trust me. They marked down that I was indeed a Male and promised they would fix it later. Again, not worried. I didn’t see anyone that I personally recognized in the half hour or so leading up to race start. I did managed to find the Marathon Maniacs and made it to the pre-race group photo. One of the Maniacs, Steve Hughes, was running his 300th Marathon at the Darlington Marathon and not only gave him the #300 bib, but to celebrate his achievement, there was a 10 foot x 20 foot, yes, I said “foot”, banner with his picture hanging from a fire truck boom at race start.
Frequent bathroom trips are a good sign that you are well hydrated. In the 30-40 minutes arriving at the Raceway and the actual race start, I had to use the bathroom twice. The Race Start was across the street from the Raceway and because there were 4 different race distances (Marathon, Half Marathon, 10k, and 5k) we were segregated into 2 groups with the Full and Half starting first.
The National Anthem was played and then a prayer before they fired the gun to start the race. The entire race was run on Darlington roads, except for the last approximately 2 miles which was in the Raceway. Thankfully, the Darlington course is flat except for right when you enter the Raceway, the tunnel has a short but steep hill to it.
Miles 1 – 2
It didn’t take long for the runners to space out enough to not be congested which was nice. This way we could get into a rhythm for the race. My mile 1 split time was 9:23 which seemed to feel okay. It wasn’t too much off my original pace of a sub-4 (9:10 min/mile) or even the adjusted pace of a PR time. I could live with this pace, if my body could. I had estimated before the race, so Jen would know when to meet me, that I would finish somewhere between 4:30 and 5:00. I wasn’t sure how the lack of training would affect my performance in combination with the forecast of no clouds.
The first 24 miles of the course itself was shaped like a racetrack. It was one big, loop. We were now on what would be called the back straightaway and it was pretty straight and ‘away’ from civilization. I had run countless races on the back roads of East Tennessee, so the back roads of South Carolina was fine with me. There was lots and lots of cotton. Darlington is not a race with lots of cheering spectators. The back roads had encouraging volunteers at the couple of water stops and the police monitors were encouraging. One of them was even asking where people were from which was something new to me.
Because the weather forecast was calling for NO clouds, with a high around 79F, I decided to carry 2 water bottles with me. I use recycled 24oz Gatorade bottles that have the ergonomic grip. Not only could you throw it like a grenade, but it holds a good amount of water and has a twist opening spout making it easy to drink while running. In all 4 of my marathons in 2012, I had one of these bottles, but today I brought 2. My intention was to toss the first one when it was empty and then hang on to other one for the rest of the race. This turned out to me a good plan for me. It wasn’t too awkward to carry to bottles as they balance each other, but carrying that extra water does give the arms extra exercise.
The back straightaway had large patches of shade that we could run in as the sun had not yet risen high in the sky yet. The temperature wasn’t too warm, it had been around 64ish at Race Start, but the cool temp, the shade and calm wind wouldn’t last forever.
Just after the turn off the back straightaway, one runner commented that it must be more difficult to carry the water bottle the entire distance. I told her that being able to have water at my disposal in the latter part of the race was well worth it. We started talking and turns out that she was a Graduate student from Florida State majoring in Nutrition. We talked for almost 3 miles about this and that. We passed an ambulance who was helping a fellow runner, not sure what was the problem, but the runner was upright and moving, so hopefully nothing serious.
At the water stop near Mile 15, I was back to running alone. What was different for a smaller race, there were runners always not too far away from me. Sometimes at smaller races there might be times you are all alone, perhaps this was because stretches of the race course was straight, so you could see well ahead of you.
Somewhere around Mile 16, I was passed by a Marathon Maniac, and shouted an encouraging word to my running brethren. We started talking and turns out that it was Edward Broadneaux, a 10 star (Titanium level) Maniac. Click here to see the requirements for the Maniacs, I’m just a 1 star (I haven’t been able to schedule marathons in a way to get more stars – I might just have to make my own Race Series, hmmmm). So, in two races this year, I have ran with Titanium level Maniacs, the first being at the 2013 Knoxville Marathon where I ran the Half Marathon with the 6:00 pacer Wayne “The Manimal” Sherman.
Mile 17 – 24ish
At the Water Stop around Mile 17, they had food, glorious food. By now, the sun had been beating down on me for sometime and not only was I thirsty but also hungry. Eyeballing the buffet, I grabbed a banana, an orange slice, some Life Savor gummies and some Circus Peanuts. I could not shove the Life Saver gummies in my mouth fast enough. The Circus Peanuts were a new food to me, or rather, they were a new “Sugar Delivery Matrix” for me and was thankful for the extra energy.
Mentally, I never hit “The Wall”, my longest run had been 18 miles on Aug 22nd and at Mile 18 in the race, I was still okay. I was still thinking on how I could manage the race with the fastest time possible. I was estimating that would finish well before 5 hours and much closer to the 4:30 hour finishing time. I had abandoned the 4:15 finishing time that I had been on pace for at the first part of the race.
The water stops on the last leg back to the Speedway were about every mile or so. My plan was to eat as often as I could, primarily fruit but an occasional Circus Peanut (didn’t want a sugar crash just a sugar boost) and fill up my bottle with water at every stop. Instead of running a prescribed run/walk interval as in the Galloway Method, I decided to run as long as I felt good, but then would walk for a minute regardless of how much I ran. I had one interval of 4 minute running and 1 minute walking but then there was another that was 8 minutes running and 1 minute walking. As I got closer to the Raceway, I was able to endure a little longer running.
A new challenge presented itself on this long straightaway back to the raceway… a headwind. As we headed back to the Raceway, there was a relentless headwind that was only around 5 miles per hour or so for me, but got stronger over the course of the day. I know that when I finished, it was probably closer to 8-10 miles per hour for those still on the course. So, not only was the sun beating down on us, but also a headwind.
Miles 24ish — Finish
Being able to see the Raceway was nice because you knew that you were getting closer to the finish line, the only problem that on a flat course, you see it for a long time. At this point, I figured that I could finish before 4:30 minutes, if my wheels didn’t come off. I was feeling pretty good, I was getting excited about being in the Raceway and I was excited about finishing. I was a little worried because I didn’t know how the finish line was configured, if and when I would be able to see Jen. Would she be up in the stands, far away or would she be closer? Each race has their own rules and some are stricter than other (usually because they have to).
Just outside of the Raceway was a “Happy Birthday Terry” sign that they had made for me. It pumped me up as I approached the tunnel to enter the Raceway. The tunnel dips down and then there is a fairly steep incline to come into the stadium. Cruel to have a hill that far in the marathon on a flat course, but I’m from East Tennessee… I love me some hills. “Pass the Milk, I’m eating this Hill for Breakfast!!”. I surged up the hill passing two runners. The visual is that at the bottom of the hill, you can’t see anything in the Raceway and you are in the shade, so as you start to crest the hill, a small portion of the Raceway is exposed and it gets a little brighter. Then as you crest, you see the entire Raceway in all its glory.
In my verbal recaps of the Darlington Marathon, you can tell that when I get to being inside the Raceway that I am giddy as a schoolboy. It was an awesome experience. You get to experience roughly 2 miles inside the Raceway with almost 1 mile of it On.The.Track! My only other comparison to finishing inside a venue is that of the Knoxville Marathon where you run into Neyland Stadium and have about 50 yards on the field to the Finish Line. Way cool, but not a lot of time to take in the atmosphere.
Now inside of the Raceway, I began to do my Finish Line procedure. I start to take inventory of how I feel, what I have left in my legs, my possible finishing time and I look to see the runners ahead of me and see if I might be able to pass them. There wasn’t a whole lot in my legs left, but mentally I was all business… I was going to finish in under 4:30 and I was going to pass people.
I decided that there were no more water stops and that my water bottle was essentially empty, I would toss it. I didn’t want to carry it to the finish line, I had plans for the finish line and I needed both hands free. In the infield of the Raceway, we turned to the right toward the finish line and I was able to see the finish line configuration. Still in the infield, we turned again to run parallel to track where I could scan the finish line. Low and behold, I saw Jen and yelled, “JEN, JEN!” to get her attention. She heard me over the music blaring in the Raceway and she managed to get a picture of me on another banner that the Race Crew had made for me!
We then turned around another corner which put us on Pit Road, again passing the finishline. As I passed Jen again, I gave her my finish line plan in a loud and obnoxious voice, “I feel pretty good and I’m GONNA COME IN HOT!”. Thankfully, she translated my fatigued speech of “I’m going to run fast at the end” as I head out onto the race way.
I lost track of the mile markers, so I have no idea of long it took me to run Mile 25, but I can tell you that I ran longer than a mile. Once on the track, I was wide-eyed and had a goofy grin on my face. I was on a race track where cars raced at high speed, bumping and grinding and here I was… racing on the same track. I imagined the stands filled with screaming fans, cheering on #42!
There were 2 runners right ahead of me, who had ran up part of the bank on Turns 1 and 2, and I thought to myself, I’m not going to miss the opportunity to experience the full glory of the Raceway. So I ran across the Raceway and I #TouchedTheWall of Turn 2! Wow, the bank on Raceway is pretty steep, I had just surged up the incline to touch the wall, but coming down I had to be careful not to fall over and roll down the track.
Other runners were running down by the infield where it was flat. Again, I wasn’t going to miss running ON the speedway, so on the back straightaway, I made sure that I was right of the Yellow Line, and proceeded to pretend I was a race car. Passing the press box, I was in my own race making my own sound effects and everything (of course, I was the lead car in the final straightaway).
As I approached Turn 3 there was another runner down by the infield. Since I was up on the track, he was pretty far ahead of me and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to pass him but he was targeted. I made my plan, coming off Turn 3, I would cut Turn 4 a little short and aim back toward the Finish Line. I would give my legs on last walking break and start to increase speed preparing for the finish. Then at the start of the black on the Track where corporate logos were painted, I would go all out and give the Fast Finish Kick.
About 20 feet from the black, I started to pick up speed, but then disaster struck, first my left calf and then my right calf cramped.
“NO, NO, NO,” I said out loud to myself as panic started to set in. I could see the runner ahead of me, still running slowly moving away from me. I had to go back to walking so that I literally didn’t collapse on the Raceway. In what was probably 2 seconds, thought it felt like 10, I tried to think of what I could do? Stopping to stretch was the best idea, but would take the longest and while I would still probably finish under 4:30, I wouldn’t be able to catch that runner. Then, thinking quickly, I pulled out a pack of Clif Blox that I still had tucked in my shorts. I ripped the package open and shoved 3 of them in my mouth. This was going to have to do, there was no more time. There were 3 scenarios that could happen, 1. I would kick and beat the runner, 2. I would kick, the runner would hear me and accelerate thus staying ahead of me, 3. My legs would cramp again and I would go face first on the asphalt.
The third option would have been a story-teller, as it probably would have had Medical Crews to run out onto the track like in NASCAR wrecks. But it would turn out that #1 would make a great finish line video. Jen was able to capture my finish on video starting just before I hit the Black on the track. I’ve embedded the video to this post, Jen has some back story to taking the video which adds to the experience. From my point of view, once I hit the Black, it was all eyes on the checkerboards at the finish line. I didn’t feel any twinge in my calves as I was making my way to the finish line. I could hear Curtis, the race director, talking in the bull horn, but I wasn’t sure if I could beat that runner. I didn’t realize how close it was to the finish line when I actually passed him, maybe 10 feet. This was no fun run, it was a race… place mattered (to me).
In the last few steps of the race, I threw up my hands with the numbers 4 and 2, in hopes that a finish line photo might capture it. You can’t quite make it out in the video. I’ve had a wide range of finish line photos… Goofy (2006 Knoxville marathon) to Horrible (2012 Chickamauga Marathon) but wanted add to the 42 spirit of the day. Maybe from now on, I’ll throw up the number of that marathon, so this would mean that 2013 Flying Monkey Marathon will be #22 marathon and so the finish line hands would be the V for Victory… appropriate.
Thirsty and sore and so glad that Jen was right there, I wanted some water, some food and some place to sit. Unfortunately, the finishers of the other races ate a good portion of the food, but there were some potato chips that I could eat, plus Jen had brought some food with her. It is amazing at what you are willing to eat during and after a marathon, stuff you’d normal just push to the side. Jen was such big help at the finish line, she was able to get me to sit down so I could regroup. She had brought The Stick which was the saving grace to a fellow, first-time marathoner who was experiencing debilitating soreness.
I thought the race, especially for being the inaugural one, was well organized. The course was well supported and flat. There were few spectators out on the course, save the awesome volunteers providing food and drinks. Finishing in the Darlington Raceway and getting to experience running on the track itself was an amazing experience. The biggest problem was the weather, the cloudless sunny day and the wind. These things are out of control of the Race, so you get what you get. I’ve been asked if I would run it again, and my answer is “Yes!” If I had gotten in all of training and not have gotten injured twice during training, I would have PR’ed and may have even gotten sub 4 hours.
So with Darlington finished, the next race on the docket is the Flying Monkey Marathon, set for November 24th. This year’s theme is [cue Theme from Superman (Main Title)] “Faster than a Flying Banana”.
[Editor's Note: I had every intention of posting this last week, before the marathon, but I didn't quite finish the post. #BestLaidPlans]
It is race week for the Darlington Marathon. As I write this, there are around 72 hours or so before I start the marathon. I could tell that I am getting pre-race jitters, something which I never expect when they come to me. After all, I have more than a handful of races of varying lengths, so the anticipation of a race should be new to me.
Since I am known as “That Runner Guy”, I usually get asked a few questions about running. Of course, as a special interest, I am more than happy to go on and on (until the break of dawn) about running. Now, as a seasoned runner, I know that you can’t part running wisdom in one nugget of information. You have to probe to figure out where people are in their running and answer accordingly, in small digestible pieces. That’s one of the reasons why I stress to first time marathons, just focus on finishing, don’t worry about anything else. There’s no apriori information to base speculation.
Now there is one thing that comes up, no matter who is asking questions and if someone does ask about it, then I address it outright. That is Race Day Excitement, it can be a blessing or a curse. But I realized today that it is really a component of the overall Race excitement (and the inevitable depression of finishing) and that got me thinking about writing about it, or getting down my thoughts before I make it into a thesis (but where I can I get a PhD in running?).
So as a Physicist turned Nuclear Engineer turned Recovering Engineer turned Statistician, I got to thinking that there must be some formula that governs the excitation levels of a running and when exposed to a source of energy increases the quantum state of the runner, both in mind and spirit. I figured that I could possibly use my own data and try to use regression to fashion an equation that has the smallest amount of error, but the highest level of practicality and (cross-fingers) might have some significance.
So there are some key events that happen leading to a Race that don’t always happen in order, but when they do happen add/subtract to the level of excitement.
1) Deciding to run a race – this is loosely proportional to the experience of the runner. A fledgling runner will, on average, get really excited about deciding to run a race.
2) Signing up for a race – I would say that this has more to do with the personality of the runner rather than anything else. Some races, especially those that you have to qualify for outright (New York Marathon, Boston Marathon, etc) or even to get a good seed at the Starting Line (Peachtree 10k, Bolder Boulder 10k, etc)
3) Injuries/Illnesses – can wreck havoc on the excitement, depending on severity of injury or the intensity of the illness. When it occurs in relation to training/race day is a multiplier to some amount
4) Proximity to Race Day – As Race Day approaches, the anxiety and excitement of the Race increases. If it is a race really important or significant to the runner, this can magnify both. The bigger the race, it happens earlier.
In my case, I’ve been pretty excited about the Darlington Marathon since I was told that I would get a very generous birthday gift of a complimentary entry. At first, my excitement was that I was running a marathon on my birthday, then I was really excited that I would get a birthday bib… that is my Race Bib will be my age (#42). Over the course of the last few months it has gone up and down as I have experienced injuries and successes.
I’ve been overcome the last few weeks with anxiety because I did not get in all the training that I needed. I missed a couple key long runs that leaves performance on Race Day in question. However, now it’s out of my hands… I can’t do any running that will truly improve my run on Race Day. So what’s a runner to do? Get excited!
On Sunday, when My Lovely and Talented Wife brought my race up as a prayer in Small Group, I switched over from “Training Mode” to “Race Mode”. Today (Tuesday) R-Day -4, I could tell that my stomach was in butterflies. This nervousness in the past has been deterimental for Race Day, as I have not felt like nor actually eaten. This was the key factor of my DNF (Did Not Finish) in 2009. I was extra excited/anxious that I was going to be a Pacer for the Knoxville Marathon that I didn’t feel hungry and therefore didn’t eat. Unfortunately, this meant that I had no energy and only made it to Mile 14 before the wheels came off. I had to stop pacing and just survived until Mile 18 when I pulled myself out of the race and had the Medical Crew take me back to the Stadium.
‘ Knowing Is Half the Battle’ so today, I made sure that I ate lunch and snacks. This evening I made extra bacon and a batch of Chocolate Chip Cookies. Yeah, I know Comfort Food, but I’m anxious… it’s not a tub of ice cream. Mmmmm ice cream.
Another thing that I am doing besides eating cookies is making a conscious effort to drink lots of fluids. Last year when I ran Chickamuaga Marathon and then shortly after Flying Monkey Marathon, I realized that in preparation for Chickamauga I was drinking a lot of water. It was all the trips to the bathroom, but I put 2 and 2 together.
When I originally began thinking about content of this post, I was going to create some scientific formula, such as f(excitement)= Sum(A* + P^2 + L/E)*πor something like that. Fun cipher bonus if you solve for ‘excitement’. But, excitement is really to complicated to try to explain…
I should just go ahead and say, “I am injured.” Not something that I want to say, but rather something that I should admit with only 9 days before the Darlington Marathon. On the 14th, in the waning seconds of my one-and-done sparring match at the Taekwondo America National Tournament, something happened and my right hamstring became really really tight. So tight, that I think if you drew a bow across it, it would sound like a violin.
What is weird is that my hamstring hasn’t bothered me much, at all. I can walk, jump, sit in the car ride home, carry the kids, climb stairs, everything with the exception of bending. When I reached down to pick something up, BOOM, I could feel it.
So I’ve been trying to loosen it up the past couple of days with some marginal success. Last night I went to taekwondo and class went fine. I was rather cautious and had no problems, in fact, I think the stretching helped.
Today, I was debating whether or not to run at lunchtime. It had been over a week since I last ran and I wasn’t sure how far or what intensity I could withstand. I settled for running around the track.
While running, I was lamenting about how I had grand hopes about the Darlington Marathon. It goes something like this:
I was going to train appropriately for the first time and strive for the goal of a sub four marathon. But then I missed a bunch of runs in the 1st half of July.
I could pickup where I left off and strive for the goal of a PR time (4:08:02 or faster). But then I missed a bunch of long runs
I could at least finish the marathon. But then I went and tweaked my hamstring
Maybe I could do something to make my injury worse and self-sabotage running the marathon at all, so I wouldn’t regret what could have been. But then I stopped feeling sorry for myself.
If I can get one more long run (more than 10 miles) in that would be ideal. Taper schmaper, I don’t need no stinkin’ taper. I’m a Marathon Maniac, we don’t taper. I’ll stretch and rehab as much as I can between now and race day.