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2015 Flying Monkey Marathon

2015 Flying Monkey Marathon Race Report

2015 Flying Monkey Marathon

Flying Monkey Marathon
November 22, 2015

The Reaping

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.

The badges are loving called "Monkey Kills"
The badges are loving called “Monkey Kills”

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.

Flying Monkey Marathon Course Elevation
Flying Monkey Marathon Course Elevation

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.

Me, Sandy, and Danny
Me, Sandy, and Danny

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!

Warrior Mode!
Warrior Mode!

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.

HHFMM X_1536

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.

At the Finish Line
At the Finish Line

I finished  in 177th (out of 321) place with a finishing time of 4:54:30 [Chip Time] for my 6th Monkey Kill.

Post Race Goodies
Post Race Goodies

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!

2106FMMlogo

 

 

 

 

2014 Quad Cities Marathon Race Report

2014 Quad Cities Marathon: A River Runs Through It

Quad Cities Marathon
Quad Cities Marathon

September 28, 2014

Travel
It was a family venture out to the flat Midwest from hilly East Tennessee. I should create a blog post of the few days prior to the race. It involved an interstate detour because of a burning truck, fog lines, visiting family that I hadn’t seen in years and years, and meeting some others for the first time. Reasons why I was running this race are on a previous post.

Expo
The expo was held in the iWireless Center entertainment venue and wasn’t overwhelming. This made packet pickup pretty easy, although I would have put the Lookup Board just outside to make the flow easier. Jeff and I arrive fairly early on Saturday, we had a family reunion later that afternoon, so this was the best time to get there and back. I found that I was going to wearing the number 402 for this race. I hadn’t tried to ask for the #43 bib since the race was being held on my 43rd Birthday. It was cool that the Darlington Marathon did it for me in 2013, so once was cool enough.

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When I went to pick up my race shirt, the lady asked, “Is this your first marathon?” I answered in a surprised, “Oh, no.” To which she quickly replied, “Is this your first Quad Cities?” and I replied simply “yes”. We also received a poster with the medal on a hand drawn rendering of the Race Start with the date, which should be suitable for a frame, someday.

A number of vendors were present, most of them local companies. So while most of them I couldn’t really use their services being from out of town, I did hit the booth with the free samples of Miller Lite. I was on my last 2 doses of antibiotics, so I was willing to risk taking a sample. At the Official Quad Cities Paraphernalia booth I scored a 2013 Quad Cities Marathon shirt for $5, since I was short a few shirts for the trip. The only thing I didn’t get to do was talk with the Pacers for the race. I wanted to ask if there was anything cool that their Pacer Captain did for them to get any good ideas. Also was going to see if any of the sub 4 Pacers would consider a trip to Knoxville in 2015 (Always Networking!).

Pre Race

When I woke up it was just a little early but I didn’t want to go back to sleep and then proceed to over sleep. I figured my brother would wake me if it got too late, but I didn’t want to take any chances. I went and got up,  dressed, and Jen helped me put Rock Tape on my hamstrings and quads. I went downstairs for my normal pre-marathon meal of an Apple, Clifbar, Coffee, Water and Gatorade.

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pinning of the gels

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Since 2002, to carry food with me, I pin my gels to the outside of my short’s waistband and then flip them inside. I had 2 Accel gels (both Lime) which are my favorite of all the gels that I have used because they aren’t too sweet and have some protein in them to help regulate the sugar. I had picked up 2 new gels at Eddie’s Health Shoppe back in Knoxville, a Chia based Gel and a Gu Roctane.  I know, I know… you aren’t supposed to eat anything new during a race unless absolutely necessary.

We had a prerace phootshoot before Jeff and I headed to Race Start.

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Me and Jeff before heading to the Race

We arrived with plenty of time before the start of the race. Finding our way into the mass of people lined up for what was turning out to be a beautiful morning, hoping the sun wouldn’t be too draining. Race Start was crowded but not bad even with 3,800 people hanging around for their respective race to start. I was a little surprised that all distances were starting at the same time: the 5k, Half Marathon and Marathon. After the gun fired, it took me close to 4 minutes to reach the Starting Line.

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Miles 1 – 6.2 (55:51)

Thankfully, the race had the entire road for runners to spread out in the first mile. This relieved much of the congestion one people got going. I didn’t have to do too much swerving around runners to get to my target pace. I didn’t want to be too slow in the first mile and set myself with a time deficit and at the same time burn too much energy swerving through traffic. Jeff and I separated right at the start, he was thinking he’d have a 2+ hr finish for the Half.

The course for the Full and Half runners put us running over a bridge right at mile 1, while the 5k runners kept going straight ahead. Even with losing the scores of  5k runners, it was packed like sardines over the bridge. We had one lane of the bridge while slow moving vehicular traffic had the other. A few times, to avoid getting jammed in runner traffic, I run outside of the cones (shhhhhh).

Coming off the bridge, we were able to spread out again. Since I hadn’t seen the Mile 1 marker (located early on the bridge) and coupled with the congestion on the bridge, I wasn’t sure exactly what pace I was running. Too slow and I would have to make it up, too fast and I would pay for it later.

I crossed the Mile 2 marker at 18:36 which was a 9:18 average pace. I was pleasantly surprised that I was actually that fast, just about at right pace. I was sure I had been slower because of the bridge congestion. At the top of the hill, right before Mile 3, I saw my cheering section of Jen, The Boys, and Bree (my Sister-In-Law).

One thing I did in preparation for this race was to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. The forecast of Sunny weather earlier in the week did not sit well with me, so I planned for Operation Saturation.  My rhyming plan was working well, because shortly after getting off the first bridge, I had to go! So, just past Mile 3, I ditched off the course and used the bathroom. During my very first marathon in 1999, I had to use the bathroom at Mile 4 but held it until Mile 17. I had trouble for the rest of the race because of it, so I’m very conscious now about making sure I take care of my business early.

Coming down the “big” hill during Mile 4, I passed one the Pacers, which comforted me because I was making the gains that I needed. Around the 4.5 mile area, the route hops onto a greenway that runs parallel with the Mighty Mississippi River. It’s much like the Neyland Greenway in Knoxville that runs alongside the Tennessee River. I took some time just to enjoy the view of the river and the scenic view it offered.

Miles 6.2 to 13.1 (1:56:11)

Somewhere before the Mile 6 mark, I caught up with another Marathon Manaic and we began talking. Turns out that it was Maniac #62, Steve from Wisconsin who has ran all 17 Quad Cities Marathons! FYI, there are currently 9,800+ maniacs and I’m #1225. We ran together and chatted for almost 2 miles along the greenway. Crowd support was nice on the greenway, there seemed to be a smattering of people just about the entire length of the greenway.

Right around Mile 8, the Half Marathoners left us making their way toward the finish line. We still ran a bit in Davenport (Iowa) until we crossed the Centenniel Bridge over to Rock Island (Illinois). As a hill runner, most of the marathon course was flat and I had already ran the “big” hills, so the run up the ramp and across the bridge over the river was a nice change of pace.

The Rock Island section of the course was pretty active. A bunch of Cheerleading Teams were at different corners being loud and encouraging. The course through the Rock Island section was a box that connected back up to itself. Thankfully, it went around the quaint downtown area and a residential section which provided some shady places to escape the wrath of the sun.

Just before the Mile 12 mark, someone had their radio playing the song “Cherish” by Madonna. It made me think of Chris, my brother who passed away in 2013, as Madonna was one of, if not his all time favorite artist. I sure wished he could have been there to see me and Jeff at the Finish Line.

Heading over another bridge, we made it to the Arsenal Island and to the half way point.

Miles 13.1 to 20 (3:00:06)

Just before the halfway point, I caught up with the 4:00 pacer. I continued past him as I crossed the halfway point at 1:56:11 which projected me to a sub 4 hour marathon (my overall Marathon goal). I had been in a similar situation back in the 2012 Chickamauga Marathon where I had been on target for a sub 4 hour finish but then started to slow down and hung on for a (at the time) 36 second PR finish.

This meant, I had some time banked, so I could afford to slow down a little if needed. On the Aresenal, we hooked back up with the Half Marathoner for a little bit and I checked my watch to see if by some chance I might run into (pun intended) Jeff and get to see how he was doing. I did some recreational math and determined that if we crossed paths, things would be going very badly for him.

The first part of the course on the Arsenal was fairly tranquil. Once we broke off from the Half Marathoners the number of runners became pretty sparse again. The route took us on a crushed gravel road right next to the river and since we were on an Island, the other shore was closer. The course then meandered through part of the golf course, again, no traffic and plenty of trees to offer some shade. I could hear Star and Stripes Forever in what sounded like bells being played off in the distance. At one point during the golf course, they handed out towels soaked in cold water. They felt so good. It was nice to take a mini towel bath to get some of the sweat and gunk off.

Leaving the golf course, we connected up with the Half Marathoners again just after the Mile 18 mark. The rest of the course through the Arsenal was on the main road, taking us past some buildings and toward the Rock Island National Cemetery.  There was a radar
speed limit sign set up for the normal vehicular traffic, but with only runners on the course, it kept flipping back and forth from 5 to 6.

As we made our way closer to the cemetery, I understood for whom the bells (I had heard on the golf course) were tolling. The cemetery was playing an assortment of patriotic tunes with bells. The sound was strong but not earsplitting. After rounding a slight bend, the familiar white markers in perfect rows began to come into view. Orderly rows of veterans, in their final resting place, were in formation. An overwhelming sense of “something” touched the back of my neck. It was a humbling sight. I began to think of the different generations that were buried there and wondered how many of them I might have come across in the audiobooks on U.S. wars that I have listened to the past few years.

Memorial

But whether or not I had listened to the account of any number of these soldiers, there was one that I knew, a certain SSgt Robert W. Tripp, USAF, from whom I received  1/2 of my DNA code. As I was running along side of the cemetery, following the marathon course, there was one point that our distance from each other was at its minimum. Yes, recreational mental calculus based thoughts while running, but the realization made me smile as he too was immersed in the sciences, an engineer. With a small tear in my eye, surely not a bead of sweat, I turned slightly toward the cemetery and gave him a small salute. I turned back forward, enough of being sentimental, there was a race afoot!

 Mile 20 to Finish
As we left the Arsenal Island to go back over to the “mainland”, we crossed the 20 mile marker. I looked at my watch, 3:00:07, knowing at this point my legs were feeling heavy, my mind ran through the rigors of different paces and implications on finishing time. As it was, were I to keep my current pace, I was looking at a 3:59 finishing time. Realistically, I knew my pace would slow, but I wasn’t sure how slow I would become. There was 6.2 miles of exposure from the sun left to endure, the sun would be relentless and I, I would endeavor.

Making the math easier, slowing down to a 10 min pace,  would add 1 hour 2 minutes, forecasting me for a 4:01 finishing time. Dropping down to an 11 minute mile pace would put me  around a 4:07 So, I had some time in the bank to spend, if needed. However, if I wanted to achieve a PR, I could not let my average pace slip past 11 minutes per mile.

The last 6.2 miles of the course was the flattest part of the course. It was about 3 miles out then turn around for about 3 miles to the finish. In theory, you would think this is a good thing… and it is, to a point. Having hills, even small hills forces you to change the muscles you use so that no one muscle group has to do all the work. So, for me, I found the lack of hills, well, rather disturbing. All sun, no hills makes Terry’s legs fatigue faster.

Wouldn’t you know it, around Mile 21 I was looking for a place to ditch thanks to Operation Saturation. I wasn’t going to waste precious time standing in line for a portapotty. However, there was no place to politely ditch without a bunch of people around. If push came to shove, I would do what I needed to do but for now, I could still manage. I even went through a water stop and drank water and Gatorade even though I still needed to go.

Shortly after the water stop, I found a place and took a sharp 90 degree turn beside a trashcan shielded behind a wall. P.E.E. that’s how I spelled relief. My bladder thanked me and my legs enjoyed the rest while it lasted and then I was off again. Mile 21 split – 10:06.

I found myself closing in on the 4 hour Pacer (who had passed me at some point) and even hung with him for a short while. I realized my pace was a little fast and let him pull ahead by slowing down slightly. While there was still time left in the race, I had at most, an 8 minute 1 second window to still achieve a PR. My ultimate marathon goal of a sub 4 hour finish would have to come another day, but a PR didn’t have to wait, but it wouldn’t come easy. Mile 22 split – 10:02

For these last 6 or so miles, I took walk breaks when I needed and continuously drank all the water I could manage. No shade was available, the sun was draining and the temperature was still comfortable but rising. I welcomed another wet towel station along the way and took advantage of it in both directions.

I was watching the time that I had banked slip away at each mile marker. I knew though, I had to go as fast as I could without depleting my energy too early.  I was limiting myself to walk breaks to a minute, preferably less. If I stopped to do my leg stretch, I knew I my pace would be slightly faster for a short period of time. Also, for time management, I made sure that I had the cap of my bottle off before I got to the water stop, and when my bottle was being filled, I would grab a water or Gatorade for the road. Mile 23 split – 11:06.

At the water stop near Mile 23, they filled my water bottle with the coldest, tastiest water I had ever put to my lips. It was ambrosia, but I didn’t get to enjoy it too long. At Mile 24, it was time to prepare for the Finish Line. At this point, my time was 3:33 and I knew that a PR time was probable, if I could keep steady.

Then, to my surprise, I saw the 4 hour Pacer, still moving forward but shoulders hunched forward as if in a daze. I had been there many times in races… moving forward to the finish line… somewhere out there. This was his first race as a Pacer, but even in his condition, he had done 10x better than I did in my first gig as Pacer. When you get to this point as a Pacer,  where you know there is no way to finish at your goal time,  there is the added weight that hangs heavy on your mind that you have failed. Runners were counting on you to get them to the finish line by that time and now it wasn’t going to happen. At least he was going to finish, I had a DNF (Did Not Finish) on my first pacing attempt. But as I tell the Knoxville Pacers in the last email before Race Day, if something happens, take care of yourself. It.will.be.okay! So today, neither of us were going to finish under 4 hours, but I could smell a PR… it was there in front of me… on the horizon. Mile 24 split – 11:26.

I model my prepping for the finish line (of any race distance) on what I believe astronauts might do when they are getting ready to land on the moon, or Earth, or may even Mars one day. For marathons, at the Mile 25 mark, I start to go over a systems check. Lungs, Legs, Stamina, Mind, Posture, Water Levels, and Energy Levels. At this point I have already scanned the runners ahead of me and mark them as ones I will overtake or that I might be able to catch before the finish. Mile 25 split – 10:51.

All systems were in check, my fatigue was being ignored due to the increased excitement of the finish line. I could make out the taller buildings ahead of me where I knew the finish line waited for me with open arms. The noise of the people and music at the finish line was becoming louder. It wouldn’t be long. One last scan for runners ahead of me, none close enough to over take, the PR was the most important thing. Mile 26 split – 10:50.

A row of traffic cones lined the road acting like landing lights for the runners. At the Mile 26 marker, I tried to finish off my water supplies and tossed my bottle off to the side. It served me well.

“Go at throttle up”
“Go at throttle up” was the last communication of Challenger to Mission Control. For the shuttles, during launch, they pull back their main engines shortly after lift off to minimize the maximum dynamic pressure on the shuttle while they are still in the thickest part of the atmosphere. If they didn’t, it would cause some very bad things. Then around the height of 35,000′ where the atmosphere is thinner, they speed back up. At this point they are travelling 1,626 mph and need all the power  so they can get to reach 17,000 mph to escape Earth’s gravity. When they reach this point, if all systems are normal, Mission Control  sends the “Go at throttle up”  message and they open the throttle of the shuttle engines.

My “Go at throttle up” is the point where my calculations of how much distance is left in the race meets up with the maximum amount of energy level I have left. That is, where I begin my “kick”.

I was ready, it was time for throttle up. I saw the finish line clock ahead of me but couldn’t make out the time, it would me my focal point as it keeps my head up and eyes forward instead of looking down. My mind gave the command, “Go at throttle up”. I surged forward, increasing my speed. It was going to happen, there would be a personal record today… on my birthday.

During the last 0.15 of mile, I could here Jen and the Boys call out for me. Yay, they were here! Everything was coming together, but then my left calf cried out and I gave a small hop. Contingency plan created and engaged. Slow down in very small amounts to maintain speed, but not to push to hard to get a debilitating cramp. If I were to get a full blown cramp, limp, skip or crawl to the finish line… just keep moving forward. My contingency plan was not needed. Last 0.2 mile split – 1:28 (a 7:20 equivalent pace).

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At the finish line

I crossed the finish line with my hands in fists and my arms over my head. In my excitement, I had forgotten to put up my fingers with the number of the finish. Last year at Darlington, I put up my fingers displaying “42” as it was my 42nd birthday. I noticed the clock 4:09:57 and panicked. “What? I thought I had… Wait, how long did it take me to reach the starting mat.” It had taken me 4 minutes. My watch said 4:05:56… what? 2 minute PR time, No Way!

Yes Way, my official time was 4:05:53 which was a 2 minute and 9 second PR time.

I received my medal and took the chocolate milk that was handed to me. I knocked that back immediately. My brain was dazed and confused, but I had done this enough times to move forward and look for food and my family.

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Terry at finish with a PR

Jeff found me and then Jen and the Boys. Jeff and I talked briefly how we did. One of his friends had finished right behind me. I grabbed some food from the food table and sat down and my body tried to get back to normal. I kept seeing the beer people had and wanted about 3 of them but I found a bench under a tent and sat.

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Jeff, The Younger, and Me

After a while, my wits had come back and could think better. We headed out of runner’s area and headed back to the car. Looking back, I definitely wasn’t thinking very clearly because I never got any beer!

Race Stats
Official Time: 4:05:53
233 out of 708 for Overall Marathon runners
170 out of 414 for Male
35 out of 58 for Male Age Group 40-44

Observations Post Race

Had it been cloudy on race day, I believe I could have taken more off my finishing time. In fact, if I had another marathon in October, I believe I would have been able to seriously shoot for a sub 4 hour finishing time, my biggest marathon goal.

The winner of the Guess My Time, Win Crap Quad Cities Edition was Pete with a guess of 4:05:33, just 20 seconds off.

2014 Panerathon Expo 10k Race Report

2014 Panerathon Expo 10k
05/24/2014

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.

Run Expo

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)

Prerace

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.

sQoosh Sweat Band

Race

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.

2014 Panerathon Race Map

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

 

 

2014 Pistol Ultra Race Report

Jan 4, 2014 8:00AM
Jan 4, 2014 8:00AM

Maryville, TN

Pre-Race

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.

140104PistolCourse

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.

Me (#27) at the start
Me (#27) at the start

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

Pistol Ultra 50k
My First Ultra Marathon Finish

 

Observations Post-Race

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!

Guess and WIN!
Guess and WIN!

Awesome!

2013 Flying Monkey Marathon Race Report

“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!”

MONKEY! Race Start
MONKEY! Race Start

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.

Out on the Course
Out on the Course

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.

FINISH!
FINISH!

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.”

Post-Race Soccer Cool-Down
Post-Race Soccer Cool-Down

Finisher’s Bling:

Finisher's Medal and Silipint Drinkware
Finisher’s Medal and Silipint Drinkware

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.”

131124 Flying Monkey 04
Off to save the world… or run another marathon

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.

The badges are loving called "Monkey Kills"
The badges are loving called “Monkey Kills”

 

The theme for 2014 is A Dance with Monkeys“… MONKEY WINTER IS COMING

2013 Darlington Marathon Race Report

“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.

Marathon Maniacs
Marathon Maniacs

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.

Mile 2-12

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.

Mile 12-17

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.

Edward Broadneaux and me
Edward Broadneaux and me

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!

Birthday Sign for me
Birthday Sign 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.

Post Race

2013-09-28 Darlington Finish

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”.

 

2012 Flying Monkey Marathon Race Report

Bananas in black!

We've Got Big Hills
We’ve Got Big Hills

Just a mere 8 days after my PR finish at the Chickamauga Marathon, I was getting ready to run the Flying Monkey Marathon (11/18/2012). The Flying Monkey Marathon is my absolute favorite marathon, the culture around the marathon is so awesome, you don’t care that the course is brutal. And if the course doesn’t kill you, the monkeys will.

For this race, the whole family made the trip to Nashville on Saturday with the race on Sunday. Due to poor planning on my part, because My Lovely and Talented Wife is the awesome planner, we missed out on Children’s Museums on Saturday.

This was my 4th running of the Flying Monkey Marathon, I had previously ran in 2008, 2009 and 2010. I had missed the 2011 running because I stupidly thought I could get registered with no problem, but it was closed before I could even blink. This year, registration was done by weighted lottery and because I wasn’t sure if I would get into Flying Monkey, I completed the early registration for Chickamauga Marathon as a “back-up”. If I was chosen to run Flying Monkey then it would be “oh well, gosh darn, I’ll just have to run both”. And that is what happened.

Because Flying Monkey is 1) A tough course: They have Big Hills and 2) I ran a PR time of 4:08:02 at Chickamauga just 8 days earlier, I had no expectations on my performance at Flying Monkey. All I wanted to do was finish. And finish I did!

Pre-Race
The one nice thing that happens is that there are pre-race photos for running groups which cuts out the whole “where is the picture going to be”. I know that Marathon Maniacs (I’m MM#1225 – which Flying Monkey 2008 was my qualifying race) and Run It Fast both had group pictures and I think the other group was those runners that had run all the Monkeys to date.

Miles 1-7
(9:19, 9:41, 9:40, 10:22, 9:37, 11:14, 8:38)

Starting off the race was pretty easy. Like I have mentioned earlier, this was just a leisurely run in the (literal) park. Corresponding with the course profile, my mile split times were correlated positively with the elevation changes. During these first few miles, I was running with a runner who had run all of the Flying Monkey and was just passing time.

Miles 8-13
(10:51, 9:45, 10:14, 10:02,10:18, 11:03)

By about this time, I realized that the pace that I was running was fairly comfortable, very comfortable and by the calculations, I would be finishing in a sub 5 hour time. But it was a no-worries marathon and I figured I would keep the pace and see what happens.

Miles 14-22
(10:00, 11:52, 10:27, 10:21, 11:00, 9:09, 12:03,11:01, 10:17)

Unfortunately, writing a race report almost 9 months post-race about a race on a course previously ran 3 other times, the memory tends to blends races together.  However, things were still going well, pace going well, legs in good shape.

We've Got Big Hills

Miles 23-26.2
(10:43, 11:03, 10:41, 10:47, 1:21)

With things going relatively well, it was now a question could I accomplish my Monkey Goal. I would be pretty close. One of the cool things about the Flying Monkey Marathon is that once you get a bib number, you keep your bib number. My bib number is 438. So my Monkey Goal is to finish in 4 hour 38 Minutes.  In 2008, I was close with a 4:43, but then in 2009, I was 5:31 and in 2011 I finished in 5:41.

On final approach to the finish line at Flying Monkey, the course breaks out from the roadway and crosses into a field with about 0.3 of a mile to go. The about 1/2 of the approach is to a tree, which you take a left turn then the remaining 0.15 mile is a straight shot to the finish line. It is this rounding the curve where I make my final move to overtake anyone at the finish.

My first Monkey finish, I finished running with The Elder and The Younger. My other Monkey finishes have been foot races, coveting a higher finishing spot in the overall results over other runners.  This finish was no different. After the left turn around the tree, I started to pick up speed.

I could tell that as I passed two runners, that at least one of them was going to challenge me toward the finishing. Sensing that they were starting to accelerate to catch me, I started to go full throttle. I had never put on my timing chip, so the race results do not really indicate how I finished. I only had my watch time, which would be close to my actual net time.

I finished the 2012 Flying Monkey Marathon, officially, in 4:31:22,  149th out of 285 finishers, 19th out of 22nd for my age group. Most importantly, I beat my Monkey Goal, by a quite a bit. I was truly amazed that I had ran the entire race so strongly to have kept up that pace.

We've Got Big Hills
Official Time: 4:31:22

Another successful Flying Monkey Marathon.

One bit of Terry Trivia, finishing the Flying Monkey for the 4th time ties it with the number of finishes of the Richmond Marathon (1999, 2000, 2001, 2002). I am currently signed up for the 2013 Flying Monkey Marathon (Faster than a speeding banana).

2012 Chickamauga Marathon Race Report

 

2012ChickamaugaMarathon

This report will be “out of date” within the blog because I am writing it almost 6 months since Race Day. Here is post where I talk about the ‘upcoming’ Chickamauga Marathon.

Race Morning
The Chickamauga Marathon is located in Northern Georgia, pretty close to the Tennessee border and not too far off the interstate. This allows the Chickamauga Marathon to be a day trip race, being able to leave in the early morning and return the same day.

I fell asleep the night before with a couple of alarms set, but I think being anxious about the race was the deciding factor in me waking up. In those wee hours, I gathered the rest of my gear (95% was set out the night before) and loaded it into the car. I put Rock Tape on my hamstrings to prevent injury and shorten the healing time, after all, 8 days later I was going to be running the Flying Monkey Marathon.

One interesting thing about this fall’s training regiment is that I fed myself with just an apple or two before my long runs. And it worked. So, given that I was racing today (I was shooting for a PR time, if not a sub-4 performance), I cut myself 3 of them to eat in the car.

The trip down to Chickamauga was rather uneventful, except when I turned onto the main street leading to Race Start. The traffic was heavy and stressful. Fortunately for me, I landed a decent parking spot right in the main area where START/FINISH was located. I ran down to Packet Pickup to grab my stuff and head back to the car to get ready.

I hadn’t found Susan yet, but Chickamauga is not a mega race, so I wasn’t too worried that I find her. And while I waited in the line to answer Nature’s Call, Susan found me and we were able chat a bit before the race start. I had noticed someone wearing an ASD Athletes shirt, it was fellow runner friend Darrell James!

My plan was to finish the race and then head back out on the course and run with her back to the finish line.

Race Start
The Chickamauga Marathon is intimate enough that you just walk up to the starting line and the spectators create the one and only corral. And like at all races there was lots of excitement in the air.

One cool thing about the Chickamauga Marathon is that it is run primarily through the Civil War Battlefield, and what better way to start the race then with a big mofo cannon? When it fired, it was so loud! Good thing I had already used the porta-potty.

Miles 1-5
The first 5 miles I managed to record sub-9 minute miles. Now while I knew these were a little fast, they felt really good.

2012 Chickamauga02

Miles 6-21
I’m used to running with little to no crowd support, or even few runners, but there is something uplifting when people are cheering, even if it is not specifically for you. I did have my Marathon Maniac singlet on, so I would get the “Good Job, Maniac” which then I knew was for me. This helped keep up my pace for a majority of the race.

I was reminded on the second loop that the Chickamauga Marathon course has some inherent difficulty to it. It doesn’t have any huge hills that are quad busters, it the “rolling” hill profile.  If a “Hill” is a rise in one plane of space, call it the X-axis, Chickamauga has many technical turns with rises and dips on the Y-axis. It’s sneaky… and if you don’t recognize it, it’ll get you.

Psychologically, there’s a bunch of battle monuments through out the entire course, so you get to reflect on those who were there and what they had to endure. Battling with the 1860s warfare technology… tough.

Even though I was running the course efficiently, I was starting to fatigue. At this point I was on target for a 3:54ish finish, but I could tell that I was going to have to give back some of that time, but the question was how much.

Mile 22-Finish
One thing you learn while running 20+ marathons is not to panic. However, while you learn that, practicing it is something completely different. Instead of trying to muscle through “The Wall”, I went straight into marathon survival mode. This included unstructured walk/run intervals, plenty of fluids, lots of looking at the watch and mental math. After 3 hours of running, that mental math gets tough, but strangely helpful, it helps keep your mind off the fatigue in your head.

The last few miles, my pace was all over the place. Mile 23 was in 11:45, Mile 24 was in 10:42, Mile 25 was in 11:40 and Mile 26 was in 10:47. When I eventually get to writing my book on marathons, I am going to have a whole chapter on the last 2 miles of the race. It’s here where I do a good deal of “technical” running with almost 1/2 of it is mental preparation for the finish line.

I didn’t really study the map very well (shame on me, especially after my 2005 ordeal with Chickamauga) and so when I reached the last 0.5 mile I realized that I wouldn’t have to go around the entire loop to finish the race. Instead, it was up a small hill and then a right turn onto the loop with 0.2 miles left to go. Once I realized this, I could hear the finish line commotion. My mental math was calculating a 4:07 finishing time, but was unsure if I could last much longer.

My current PR time was 4:08:38 which I ran at the 2007 Chickamauga Marathon.  It was going to be close, I knew that I had to be deliberate when I walked because I didn’t have too much time to give.

I am a “Kicker”, this means that at the end of the race, at some point I start to run as fast as I can toward the finish line. It doesn’t matter how good/bad the race was or how well I am feeling, I find a point on the course and decide that is when I am going to go full throttle. The last 0.2 mile of the course, is about 0.15 mile down hill, sharp left turn to the finish line. At the 26 mile marker, I started to lengthen my stride, then increasing the turn over to speed up. Once I neared the last turn, I started to accelerate on a wide turn. I knew that I didn’t want to turn too sharply and lose speed just to gain a few feet in distance, my speed would make up more than enough. The clock was ticking closer to 4:08 and I didn’t have anymore time to spare.

I pushed faster, then reached deep inside and used every last drop of energy that I had. As I crossed the finish line, the clock was right near 4:08:30. Given that this was the Clock Time, I knew that I had successfully achieved a PR time. My official time, Chip Time, was 4:08:02, a 36 second PR.

Post Race
My legs were spent, I had nothing in them. I hung around the finish line waiting for Darrell James to finish because he was not too far behind me. I walked over to the food tent where I ran into a fellow Knoxvillian, Jason Altman – race director of the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon, to learn that he won the marathon overall.

I took a few minutes to get some food and drink in me. Then I headed back out to meet up with Susan. Unfortunately, my master plan of running ALL the way back on the course to find her was thwarted because my legs were so exhausted that I made it about a mile where I had to stop at the water stop right before Mile 25 to rest a while.

I headed up to the part of the course where there was a timing mat and the guy was nice enough to let me rest my legs by sitting in his chair. Susan found me lounging around, but soon we were off to bring her to the finish line. 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. 🙂

I gave Susan the low-down on the finish line, because knowing is half the battle. I was going to split off from her near the finish line. Her crew (Chasen, Isaac and Isabelle) were waiting to see her finish and Isaac even ran the last part of the race with her! Way cool! Here’s her race report to see some pictures from the race.

After the race, I went back with her and her crew back the to hotel to get a Stout Approved Ice Bath. Thanks to Chasen for getting all the ice. My legs were coooold but felt pretty darn good afterwards. The best part was that Susan had a surprise for me to take home, a Homemade Chocolate Cheesecake. Oooo it was so good… I recommend everyone getting one!

I headed back home with a PR time and cheesecake. It would only be a mere 8 days that I would be running the Flying Monkey Marathon. I ran Chickamauga for “business” (i.e. for time) I was going to be running Flying Monkey for “fun”.

 

2012 Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon Race Report

In a previous post, I wrote how I was the marathon Pacer captain. I arranged for all the pacers to arrive well before race start at a central location order for us to have a group picture taken and to take care of any last minute items.

Everyone showed up right on time and not only did we get the group picture taken but we had plenty of time to mill around before the race started. I found the Marathon Manic group and met some of the other maniacs running in the race. The were four of us maniacs who were pacing but a fair number of others running.

As it got closer to race start for the 2012 Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon, we headed out toward the corrals so that we could line up. I had brought my backpack with some extra stuff that we might need before race start. It was my intention to use the bag check service, something I had never done before at a race. It was painless. Part of the runner’s bib had a tab with my bib number and attached it to my backpack and gave it to the volunteers.

After dropping off my gear, I wandered out into the 5 hour corral and tried to find the middle of it. We didn’t have a 5:45 Pacer so as long as I was behind Lyle the 5:15 Pacer, I would be fine. We had about 10 minutes before the start, so I held up my flag so that people could see me.

I was quite worried leading up to race start, how was I going to know what a 12:36 minute per mile pace felt like? I had no clue and was worried about going out too fast at race start. There would be the Lyle ahead of me and as long as I stayed behind him, that would help gauge my timing but it would not be enough to be accurate.

It wasn’t until I was in the corral and people milling around that I saw the solution to my dilemma. Around me were a large group of people that felt they should run at the speed I was advertising. Ah-Ha, that was the answer. I will pace off these people until Mile 1 then I could adjust accordingly.

The forecast for Knoxville was on the warm side, but there was an early morning fog that blanketed Knoxville. It was an early morning temporary layer of protection for the runners, but the question was “how long would it last?”

Once the gun fired to commence the race, I estimated that it took me about 3 minutes or so to cross the starting line. This was important because for most of the runners, the chip (or net) time constitutes our Official Time. So by starting my watch at the starting line and using the cheat sheet I had pinned to my bib I would know how well I was doing finishing at the to the goal time.

There’s a lot of excitement at the start of the marathon and whether you are running your 1st or 20th, you can get caught up in it. For the more seasoned marathoners, it is a little easier to be aware that you are getting caught in the excitement. I was trying not to be too excited and lose track of my pace and speed up.

During the first mile, I found a groove that seemed to feel decent for those running around me. The question, however, was this the right pace? If I was running too fast, I would have to slow down and that would be more difficult. If I was running too slow, I would have time to make up the time gradually over the rest of the course. At mile 1 my pace was 12:38, just 2 seconds off! It felt good too, so I kept it up.

One thing that worried me at the time was that I could still see the 5:15 pacer in front of me around mile 3. I know now that I should have expected it since our overall paces were pretty close, it would take some time to get some good separation. Also, once we got onto Cherokee Boulevard, there are enough curves and hills that he wouldn’t be visible for long.

Mile 4 (-3 seconds)

At mile 4, going into Cherokee Boulevard, I was 3 seconds faster than the goal time for that mile split. Cherokee Boulevard consists of rolling, twisting hills among some of pricier homes in Knoxville. Nothing too steep but some spots can be challenging, also going through Cherokee Boulevard, you know that the Noelton Hill will be shortly after this section of the course.

At some point during Cherokee Boulevard, I had the urge to “go”. Cherokee Boulevard has some rather expensive houses with manicured yards, something you might find in a fancy home magazine. I had to wait until the park area of the neighborhood before I could deviate from the course and find a tree.

One of the runners in the current group with me, agreed to hold my flag so that I could take care of business. I was a little surprised at how well hydrated I was since it took me longer than I expected. I was forced to actually run at a decent pace to catch back up with the guy who had my flag.

Mile 8 (-1 minute 41 seconds)

Since the Noelton Hill presents a unique challenge. It’s pretty steep for a bit, then a slight reprieve, then goes back to steep again. My Mile 6 and 7 splits were pretty fast, each around 45 seconds faster than average pace. I did this knowing that I could relax on Noelton and not try to push as hard up the hill, I had enough time “banked” that I didn’t have to worry about needing to play catch up.

Usually, I attack hills. I like to eat hills for breakfast. I try to keep my pace up a hill and not relax until I am over the crest. However, because of the size of Noelton, I was running an endurance length race and I was a pacer, I didn’t approach Noelton as if I just landed at Normandy. I slowed down slightly so that I could talk to the runner with me on how to overcome the hill.

It worked out just fine. We made it up the hill and slowed down through the water stop at the top. Going into Third Creek Greenway, I still felt great with both how I was feeling and how the pace felt. The next couple of miles travelled down Third Creek Greenway which was a little crowded, Fort Sander’s Area and then through World’s Fair Park where the 1/2 marathons split off to go to the finish.

Mile 12 (-50 seconds)

As we approached the midway point, the fog that had been protecting us from the sun had all but evaporated away. With the sun higher in the sky, the amount of shade available was dwindling as well. It would now start to get hotter and with the exposure to the sun, the heat would begin to cause havoc among the runners.

I drank something at every stop that I could, not a lot, but enough to ward off dehydrating. I had been alone for a couple of miles until I picked up a runner near mile 14. We talked for most of the time about lots of topics ranging from religion to parenting and of course running. At the Water Stop around Mile 17, she disappeared, I’m guessing that she needed to take a break because when I looked back after passing through the water stop, I didn’t see her.

Mile 20 (+1 minute 19 seconds)

So by Mile 20, all the extra time that I had banked, I spent. I spent it on the effects of the sun on a cloudless day. Now that we were going into the Island Home section of the course, it would be more forgiving. Most of the mileage between 20 and 24 is pretty flat. Also, Island Home has some very mature trees which would provide some shelter from the sun for a short time, plus the crowd support in Island Home is great, so there would be some external motivation from the spectators.

Island Home didn’t disappoint! There were plenty of people out, some cheering more than others. I passed and was passed by some fellow Marathon Maniacs whom are always great to chat with along the course.

The last major challenge on the course is the curvy hill just before mile 24. It brings the road along the river back up to the Gay Street Bridge. It’s not as steep as Noelton, but because of its location late in the course it can be a challenge. Then add that there’s been no shelter from the sun for the last 2 miles, and it makes it really difficult.

Mile 24 (-44 seconds)

During the 4 miles in Island Home, I was able to build back a time buffer so that even though the mile that included the last big hill at Mile 24 was +17 over pace, I still had 44 seconds to spare. I knew that barring some crazy incident, I’d be well within 3 minutes of my goal time.

At some point on Gay Street, I passed one runner who asked “What pace group are you?”

“5:30,” I replied.

“Oh rats, my goal was to beat you,” he said with a defeated tone.

“Well, COME ON! Pace with me and I will get you there. Let me do the work and I’ll talk you through the rest. I’m running a little fast right now, so we have some time to spare.”

I talked with him about what to expect in the last 1/2 mile: Going down 11th Avenue, Going up Estabrook, heading into the stadium, how to attack the finish line and the one most people forget… looking at the Jumbotron to see yourself.

Near the Mile 26 marker, I knew that he would be okay and since I had some time to spare, I turned around to see who else was close that I could help. Just behind me there were 2 runners that could use some extra encouragement. So I waited until they were with me and started running with them. When we rounded the corner, but who did I see but the guy that I had just let go on by himself. He just didn’t have enough to run by himself, so I told him to join the group and we headed into the stadium.

Mile 26.2 (-1 minute 46 seconds)

I pushed all those that were with me to head toward the finish line, reminding them to finish strong because there would be photographers there and you wanted to look like you were having fun (haha), not that you looked like you had just run for 5 hours and 30 minutes.

After the finish, I went to get my backpack from the baggage claim which was easy peasy and then headed over to post race party with two new friends, Barbara and Michael. At the party which had died down some what, I was able to meet up with some of the other pacers that were still hanging around and to get some food. I had overcome my 2009 Knoxville Marathon DNF as a Pacer.

REDEMPTION

 

 

 

2012 Georgia Marathon Race Report

The 6th annual Publix Georgia Marathon was held on 3/18/2012. I was fortunate to win a contest from 26.2 Quest for a free entry into the event. Had I not won that entry, I seriously doubt that I would have run this race. Although Atlanta is relatively close to Knoxville (about 3.5 hrs), I already have the state of Georgia for my quest to run marathons in all 50 states.

In terms of Marathoners, it wasn’t a huge race (1873 marathon finishers), however, with the multitude of Half-Marathoners, this was the first race where Starting Corrals were used. Not anything bad or good, just different.

Pre Race

Since the race starts and finishes in the middle of downtown atlanta, right inside  Centennial Park, we decided that it would be best for us (Me, My Lovely and Talented Wife, The Elder and The Younger) for us to stay at one of the Host Hotels. This means that while we get a group rate for our stay, it is still way over our price range. However, being convenient to the CNN Center (Food), Georgia World Congress Center (Expo) and Centennial Park (Start/Finish & Playground) made it worth the extra money.

Directions to The Omni hotel were okay, but there wasn’t super clear directions on where to park to check into the hotel. It might have been all the congestion with the traffic, but we were caught up in traffic that took us about an hour to go about 0.25 mile. When we finally found where we needed to go, it flowed pretty well and we were able to check into the hotel and get to our room.

While we were sitting in traffic right in front of the Georgia World Congress Center, we could see runners walking with over-sized drawstring fabric bags. Sure enough, when we got down to the Expo for packet pickup, all of my race stuff was in one of those bags. The Expo itself was okay. There seemed to be plenty of vendors selling their wares. However, it seemed arranged too close together, so the walking areas were cramped and the place was overall noisy, making it tough because of the auditory sensory overload. Jen took the kids out of the main area where it was so noisy until I was done getting all my stuff.

That night, I prepared for the race by putting the HUGE runner’s bib onto my shirt. I think I can use the bib as a sail for a sailboat, it was so big. The nice thing about having a runner’s bib so large, they printed our name at the bottom. Little did I know that having “TERRY” printed on my bib would be handy on race day. I had only cheered people with names printed, taped and/or written for people to see on their shirts, never having done that myself.

Race Morning

One of the perks of being a racer staying at The Omni was that we received a voucher for a “Power Pack” race breakfast consisting of a gluten item that I couldn’t eat (muffin I think), banana and water. The Marathon Maniacs were taking a group picture at 6:15am just across the street, so I grabbed my stuff and headed for the photo op. After the picture, I wondered to Corral G to wait for about 1/2 hour before race start.

I hadn’t planned on holding on to anything while running, but I decided that since the temperature was forecasted to be in the mid 70s when I was expecting to finish, I wanted to have extra water available in between water stops. In what seemed like a short period of time, the corral began to fill in with runners, like water filling a basin. Not wanting to be on the edge of the corral so I wouldn’t have to fight with the curb or the corral fencing, I moved to the middle.

The corrals had been arranged so that there was a walk way between the corrals. With about 5 minutes until race start, they “broke” the corral setup and everyone was able to move forward to get ready. Then, the gun went off.

Miles 1-7

The first part of the race, both Marathoners and Half-Marathoners are together and it’s quite congested. It wasn’t until about Mile 2 that there was some separation but it was still crowded, just not on top of each other. The fact that the 1st 2.5 miles are a net downhill, so most runners are going to run faster and the fact that it’s just after the race start, the excitement of the start exacerbates the issue. By mile 4, the pace was set (about a 9:40 minute per mile). At Mile 7, as the Half-Marathoners turned left, one of my fellow marathoners commented that it’ll get lonely with all the “traffic” of half-marathoners on the course. I replied that is true but we also lost their momentum.

Now while more people do make navigating the course a bigger challenge, there is a peloton effect that happens. That is, the larger group of people begin to pace off of each other and moves together more like one body as opposed to lots of individuals. While not always the case, this effect can make a faster pace seem easier.

Miles 8-15

When I put down my finish time on my registration form, I filled in a PR time of 4:04. Since Atlanta is south of Knoxville, I knew it would be “warmer” than Knoxville. However, the unseasonably warm March that we had made the thought of a 4:04 finishing time unrealistic. I had no time to train in temperatures warmer than 55F. Temperature at race day started in the mid 50s and climb to mid 70. Ironically, it was WARMER in Knoxville than in Atlanta on race day… go figure!

My pace of about 9:40 minutes per mile seemed like a good pace. It was comfortable, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to handle it later in the race especially since the sun was rising in the sky and no clouds around.

Running through Decatur was FUN! They had groupings of 4 yard signs that rhymed with the last one saying “DECATUR!”. It was nice to see the whole community backing the marathoners by posting these signs along the course. It gave us something to read! HA! And since you could see the signs from a distance, there was some anticipation on what the next grouping would say. You definitely knew that you were in Decatur, that is for sure! However, all of my energy stayed in Decatur because I started to slow down.

Miles 16-21

I tried as best as I could to just walk through the water stops, but it was getting warm and I had to cool off. My mile pace times clearly show my slowing down until about Mile 22 when I found a good run/walk ratio. I was having a difficult time remembering some of what was happening out on the course which is one problem of writing the race report so late after the fact.

So, I went to Google Maps – CAREFUL: Pun Ahead – so that I could jog my memory about what was going on during those miles. Even getting down to the Street Level and following the course, I don’t remember much. I remember going through Emory University around mile 15.75 or so. And I kinda remember the golf course around 16.5-17 but other than that, I don’t remember much until about 21.5 when we entered Piedmont Park. So I was mentally “checked out” while I was trying to recover and find a pace that worked.

Miles 22-Finish

Looking back at my split times, it seems that while I was “checked out” from Miles 16-21 I averaged near a 12 minute per mile pace. Once I got back into the race,  I slowed down to a 12:30ish minute per mile pace. This was a combination of intentional walking and running. The last section of the course didn’t have much in the way of shade, just a few trees here and there with the occasional tall building.

As I left the Georgia Tech area (Around 24.5), I remembered enough of the course map that the route would be going through downtown after the final water stop at 25. I made sure to get as much liquid as I could through that stop. The nice thing about the Georgia Marathon’s water stops was they were long. It seemed that you could walk, get some water and still have the opportunity to get more before you left the area. This provided me the ability to hydrate with some water and Gatorade at each stop, even filling the bottle that I was carrying.

Once the course turned left on Marietta St, it was straight on this road until the last turn to the finish line. It was at this time that I began my final approach to the Finish Line checklist. With a mile to go, it is easy to think that you can plow your way from here to the finish line after all, it’s “just” a mile. However, reality sets in an you must obey the limits of your ability given the current situation. The first thing that I do is take a mental inventory of aches, pains and energy levels.

My legs hurt, but not terrible. I wasn’t worried about them, maybe give them a stretch with about a 1/2 mile to go and I’d be set. My biggest concern was my energy level. I was now in full sun with no reprieve and my water bottle was about empty. I’d have to ditch it anyway, so the problem was to balance the energy that I had left with distance left in the race. This leads me to the second step of my Finish Line Approach.

Once I have an inventory of what I have to work with and issues to handle, I then look to see what runners are ahead of me that I think I can over take before the Finish Line. At this point, there were runners here and there but no one that I “had” to pass. Usually, I set goals of who I am going to beat… who looks like they might be in my age group (even though I don’t look like I belong in my age group) and use them as motivation.

The third thing that I do in my Finish Line Approach is determine at what point I am going to open wide and start sprinting to the finish line. I am what is called a “Kicker” and it’s not because I have played soccer most of my life. A kicker is someone who an increases their level of exertion at the very end in an effort to pass tired or slower runners ahead of them.

The Georgia Marathon Finish Line is set up so that at mile 26.1, there is a left turn to the finish line. Most marathons I have completed, you are able to see the timing clock with about 0.2-0.3 miles to go but in this situation with a shorter distance, I couldn’t use that as my trigger to go “full throttle”.

What I decided to do was use the building on the corner of the last turn as my trigger. When I first started to pass it, I would increase my stride and start to drift to the middle of the road so that I could take a wider turn. This way, I could make a wide enough turn so that I could see more of the last 0.1 of mile sooner and to use the bank of the road to help with my momentum since turns, by nature, slow a runner down if taken too sharply.

Once in the middle of turn, I then began to widen my stride more and focused on the clock. Since there wasn’t anyone in front of me, I didn’t need to go full out but kept a nice pace into the finish line.

I finished in 4 hours 35 minutes 22 seconds and given the heat and sun, I was pleased with my performance. The distance from the actual finish line to the medals and chocolate milk (yum!) seemed pretty far but I am going to chalk that up to “relatively” far because of my perception from exhaustion and not actual distance.

I would definitely run the Georgia Marathon again, maybe I could score another free entry by being an official pacer. Who knows. The course was challenging enough and if it wasn’t for the unseasonably warm weather, I think that I would have been closer to 4:10 finish time.

After the race, I met Jen and The Kids at our appointed meeting area and found out that one of our friends, Seth, is a Marathon Maniac as well. What is even crazier is that in the group pre-race picture, he is standing right behind me!