Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Country Music Marathon Race Report

Official subtitle:  "Finished Without Medical Assistance."  If you went just by the subtitle, you would believe that I did not have a good marathon, and looking at my finishing time, you would have ample evidence to support that.  But the truth of this race isn't in the numbers.  This marathon was told, as many are, (painfully) near the end, but we'll get to that later.
The day was perfect.  The temps started out in the mid-50's, I had made it to the parking lot and the starting village in plenty of time to stretch and do my "business."  Wisely I purchased the Publix Platinum Pass which gave me access to the exclusive parking, shuttles, food tent and portapotties.  If that is ever an option at race, I will always recommend it, especially for this one.  Fighting with 30,000 other people for about 200 portapotties is not fun.  I drank some water but really didn't eat much food as I had already had breakfast.  This might have been a mistake as it would be 3 hours between eating and starting my race, but I didn't want to take any chances on stomach issues.  I figured that I had plenty of GU to make up for my nutritional needs and keep me moving through the race.  (Dumbass.)
As for the race itself, what can I say?  Nashville is hilly and if you're not ready for it, it will punish you.  I truly believed that I was ready for it with my knowledge of the city, but during the heat of the day and 3 hours into a 8:30-ish pace, it will remind you otherwise.*  My splits were: 8:30, 8:16, 8:53, 9:11, 8:18, 8;00, 8:18, 8;19, 8;18, 8;13, 8:14, 9:07, 8:10, 8:17, 9:23, 8:10, 8:25, 9:02, 8:35, 8:38, 9:12, 9:29, 10:22, 11:11, 15:13, 26:22 and 13:51.  For those of you keeping score, yes that is a 26:22 in there;  the slowest mile I had ever ran walked in my entire running career.  I had hoped to make this marathon a PR, and honestly believed that going into mile 20 that could happen.  (Cocky Dumbass.)
For the majority of the race, I had been feeling good, not great, but running strong and fairly consistent.  I made a several potty break stops, and I made sure to hit every drink station.  I took my GU at 7, 13, 18 and 21.  I had made it past mile 11, 16, and 18 which had all proven to be game breaking (if not spirit-breaking) miles for me in the past.  Somewhere around mile 16, I had been running so long that I temporarily lost my ability to do math (a common problem for me when I've been running entirely too long), but I had regained it around mile 20 long enough to know that if I held my pace I should PR, if not barely hit my goal time of 3:45.  Until then, my average pace had been right around 8:30/mile and I was feeling happy that I had held onto my pace for that long.  (Jinxed Dumbass.)

It was at mile 21 though, I could feel my legs cramp again.  They were small cramps, nothing that I wasn't used to, so in my head, I spewed some Rated R curses at my calves and kept running.  By mile 22 the cramps couldn't be denied, and I was forced to truly walk for the first time during the race.  I still held on to some false hope that I could pull out a PR if I could walk/run a 10:00/mi pace somehow.  By mile 23, the cramps were quickly moving up and down my legs, and I started to suspect that I was in real trouble.  At mile 23, I ran into another runner who abruptly quit running and started walking in front of me.  We both managed to stay on our feet, but the effort of keeping my balance dropped me to a walk again.  Then on the other side of the street, a runner had passed out on the ground, and I and several runners moving towards medical assistance called out help for her.  By this time I was walking more than I was running, but the cramps were still getting worse.  They would start in my toes, shoot up my calves, and then rip into my quads.  By mile 24, I locked up for the first time.  I stupidly tried to bend down and stretch out my legs and nearly fell on my face for my efforts.  It would have been funny (and today it actually is), if it haddn't hurt so damn much.  My left leg was so cramped that I couldn't set my foot flat down on the ground.  I pushed down on my knee and I was able to stretch out the cramp and start walking again.  Little did I know that this would become a common expercise for me.  I tried again to jog and my legs locked up again.  Bad idea.  I got the message.  10-4 Good Buddy.  Just don't hurt me again.  Mommy.  Swinging my arms, I tried to speed walk, but even that was a herculean effort.  So I resigned myself to limping along at whatever pace my legs would allow.  That was not much.  (Slow Dumbass.)

At the water station at mile 25, I seriously considered dropping out, but I was just too damned close to not finish (besides my lovely wife would have kicked my ass if I had to show up in an ambulance on her birthday).  I grabbed some Cytomax, water and salt and kept walking.  Into mile 26, I was walking, stopping, stretcching, repeat.  More times than I can remember.  I had several people stop and ask me if I needed help.  I waived them off as politely as I could muster and kept moving.  I even had some woman offer to rub the cramp out of my leg  that was visibily moving up and down my leg (it was painfully cool to watch) and a man offered to help me walk up to the top of the hill.  I thanked them but delined their assistance also.  I did take half-full bottle of Cytomax from a finished runner (Thank you, kind half-marathoner) and downed it like a man in the dessert.  At the turn with the last .2 miles left of the marathon, I took a salt packet from a volunteer and limped toward the finish line (When nothing works, they say take salt to help.  Salt is supposed to make you retain water.  It makes my tongue feel shitty and my legs still don't work.  Go figure).  Nearly every runner that passed me into the chute urged me on, and I was both thankful and really f'ing angry jealous of ther ability to still glide across the finish line.  Eventually I did too with a finishing time of 4:26:11. (Cooked Dumbass).
I did not get my goal time.  I did not PR.  I did not even get under 4 hours.  I DID finish.  I DID not quit, even though every step I took screamed at me to do so.  It sounds stupid (I know that I can't believe that I'm saying it either), but I'm proud of myself for just finishing, not letting this race beat me again.  Now in hindsight, I now truly know what it means to "hit the wall."  I thought that I understood the statement before, but this race showed me what it was.  I hit that wall head on, and I nearly did not get back up.  Finishing this race was one of the hardest things that I've ever done, and I know that I'm a better man than I was before for having made the effort (I'm looking at this statement, and I'm thinking what a preachy, self-centered asshat I must be.  This may all be true, but I still don't know a better way to explain it).
*-I will admit that I was undertrained a bit, but that's why I tried to be conservative with my pace.  However there were a ton of people that were chasing speed and were nearly falling down by mile 3. 
Some final notes:  The expo was great. The expo here is always huge and with big names like Ryan Hall and Kara Goucher in attendance, it was running geek heaven.  I also picked up some new kicks.  So awesome expo as usual.
Thanks to all my friends and family, and Nashville in general, for coming out and supporting myself and the other runners.  The crowd support here is amazing and one of the biggest reasons that I enjoy this race.  I love high fiving little kids along the course, and nothing beats seeing my wife and kids waivving to me along the course, except seeing them as I cross the finish line.
Congratulations to all my friends, acquintances and colleagues that ran yesterday.  Whether you walked or ran, you are all winners in my book for getting out there.  Specifically a shout out to my boy Matt, my girl Dawn, Kathleen, Elizabeth, Bill, Charlie, Emily, Jim and my daughter's teacher, Ms. Kenimer.  Great job guys!

Congratulations also to all the kids that ran in the Kids Marathon, including my son and all his friends.  They were all amazing and full of energy!

Next post:  We discuss my plans for the rest of the year and why I may be taking a break from the marathon for a while.


Moore On Running said...

F@#king cramps! THey have gotten me on all five of my marathons! And at that same point. I have changed nutrition, fluids and just about everything else. Now people are telling me is my core and I need to work on it more. So now I am doing core workouts three to four times a week. Maybe it will work...

Great job finishing man! You really should be proud. Making it through that pain is hardcore!

Janice {Run Far} said...

It was a brutal day for me as well. I struggled the entire second half. I underestimated the hills, and went out way to fast.

This was my 16th marathon and I have never taken salt until March 26th when I ran my first 50 miler in Utah. I was taking 2 tabs every hour and my hands got so swollen that I had to cut back to 1 tab every hour and a half. I am guessing it just wasn't a hot enough day for that much salt. However, I did take a salt tab every hour in Nashville. I didn't have any cramping, but I hit the wall big time and wanted to quit at 17.

Well done on a hard run.

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