Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Southern Plunge Marathon Race Recap

Last Saturday, I was in rainy and dreary lovely Winchester, TN running my 5th marathon.  Since I grew up in Tullahoma, this was as close to a hometown marathon as I am probably going to get, so when I first planned to run this race, I was hoping to do well.  With that kind of thought, you would assume that I had trained long and hard prior to the race, to which you would be WRONG!  No, no.  Being the cocky jackass busy man that I am, I was not able to get in as much training as I would normally do.  Point of fact, my longest training run was 16 miles, and thanks to a will-sapping chest cold, I had not run at all the week before the race.  Because of these factors, I did not have dreams of Boston qualifier come race day, much less a sub 4 hour marathon.

The weather was rainy and cool.  Normally not a big deal, but it can be a bit depressing for such a long race.  Fortunately, the rain did stop just as we got to the line.  At the line, I saw/met Brent.  He had run the same Kidney Foundation 5K that I had run weeks prior to the marathon.  He had come in first, while I finished a distant second overall.  We talked a bit as we started out. This was his first marathon and he was looking at doing around 9:40's.  After mile 1, I picked up the pace I bit (I still had delusions of sub 9's).  I talked with another older gentleman who was going to run the Nashville Ultra in November, but eventually I left him back also.  This would have all been fine and good if I didn't have this nagging need to pee.  Fortunately the race had port-a-potties at every water stop, which was every 2 miles.

A word about the course:  On any other day, this is a great course.  Lots of rolling hills to break up the run, but nothing terribly steep as to destroy you.  There was a one hill near the end of the race that I could have lived without, but otherwise a decently well laid out course.  On a sunny day, it would have been great to run by/over the lake, but on a cool, rainy day it was hard to enjoy the sight seeing.  They had lots of aid stations, nearly every 2 miles, but the crowd support was a little sparse.  They blocked off one lane of traffic for the runners, which was generally all we needed, but some cars did get a bit close for comfort.

Back to the race:  I did my business, jumped back out to the course and sped up to reclaim my spot in the pack.  Fine, good, great.  I should be good for the rest of the race, right?  Nope.  My nagging pee issues harassed me all the way to mile 15, so every 2 miles or so, I was making a quick pit stop.  My lovely wife has said that if I'm not willing to pee on myself to win a race, I must not be very dedicated and these words haunted me at every pit stop.  Sadly this meant a lot of stopping and starting, which I was sure was going to shred my legs.

About mile 15, I had a wardrobe malfunction.  I wear a race belt that holds my bib number and my phone for my tunes.  After switching playlists, I was trying to stuff my phone back in my belt, when I ripped my bib number so that it was hanging by only one corner.  I tried to ignore it and keep running, but my OCD wouldn't have it.  So I jumped off to the side and tied my bib number up with my waistband and got back on the road.  That was probably at least a good 3 to 5 minutes wasted. 

With my past marathons, mile 18-20 is where everything starts to go into the crapper.  I'm not sure if it was the cool weather, my slow pace, my over-hydration or a combination of all three, but it didn't happen this time.  At mile 20, I saw my son with my friends, the Hamilton's (who were graciously housing me at their lakehouse for the weekend) and again at mile 21.  They were cheering me on, and I think that helped pick up my spirits too.  Sensing that I might not be able to survive the run, I started to run on the grassy shoulder instead of the road where I could.  Under this strategy, I was able to make it to mile 24 before I started to feel the cramps edge into my calves.

It was about this time that I stopped being able to do math.  Runners/racers do math all the time in competition.  What pace do I need to maintain to make this time?  How many people do I need to pass to get that spot?  What tangent/angle optimizes distance and speed?  These are the thoughts (when I'm lucid and actually thinking about the race) that run through my head at various points of the race.  When I can't do stop doing math, that means I'm now on autopilot.  On autopilot, I can keep putting one foot in front of the other for about a mile or two.  After that desperation sets in.  That's when I NEED to see the finish line soon, or I know, I just know, that I will either die or quit (and frankly to me quitting is about the same).  That's when I start bargaining with myself.  "Just hold on a little bit longer, and you won't ever have to do this again."  Or "Finish this, and we can give up marathons.  Marathons suck anyhow. It's unnatural to run that long and that far."  After another mile, the cursing starts.  "Hey Asshat!  Are you gonna quit now and prove to everyone what a gigantic p**censored**y you are?!?  Maybe they will give you a bag of s**censored**t to take home too!  How about we find a 70 year old to push your sissy ass up this hill?"  My head is a messed up and confusing place towards the end of a race.  I admit it.

Thankfully, it didn't last much longer and I crossed the line.  Of course I was shedding heat like crazy, so I grabbed a thermal blanket and waddled over to the pizza table.  I asked the very nice volunteer to open my carton of chocolate milk as I wolfed down my slice of pizza to satiate my snarling gut.  I guzzled down my milk and then waited for my time to be posted.  I finished 4:06:30, 9:25/mile.  That was good enough for 9th out of 18 in my age group and 40th out of 115 marathoners overall.  Could I have done better?  Probably with a bit more training, less potty breaks and no bib repairs, I might have gotten under 4 hours again.  Still I was happy with the finish (any marathon finish is better than no finish) as I maintained a reasonable pace and held "it" together for most of the race.

Despite the weather, I would recommend this race to anyone interested in a marathon.  It had lots of regular support, but not much of a crowd.  The field was small so there wasn't a ton of pressure to blow it out and the course was fairly interesting.  I probably could have used a few less hills, but in the end it all worked out.

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