The forecast for Saturday was a nice 88 degrees and the low on Friday was 66 degrees, so there was an estimate of race time being somewhere in the low 70s or somewhere around there. With the mild May that we have had, I had very few runs in the noontime heat. Much less run over 4 miles in it.
I made it to the athletic courtyard at 6:15 so that I could get my assignment for volunteering for race day. I was decked out in my yellow Expo shirt that I made commemorating the people whom I was running in their honor. My job was handing out the bibs for the runners G-L who preregistered. And I was blessed to sit next to two lovely lady, both of whom I knew, Beth MacDonald and Jill Bedford. You might remember Jill’s name, as I interviewed her for an episode of Phedippidations in January. I didn’t know a soul of the bibs that I handed out, although, I did recognize a few names… local elite runners. Now, I did have Bill Haslam in my stack of bibs, and that’s important because that is the Mayor of Knoxville. Unfortunately, he didn’t show up while I was there. And technically, he’s not my mayor because I live in a Town just west of Knoxville, but have a Knoxville address… so I wouldn’t be one of his constituents.
I made it up to the race start without any problem. I ran into a friend of mine and his wife. I worked with Tom before I went back to school for Statistics. He and his wife have been running marathons for a few years and run off and on together. So we chatted. The wheelchair races were released and the national anthem played. Finally we were off… down the big hill that we would have to run up to finish the race. At the base of the hill, there is a slight incline before it leaves off a bit on Gay Street, which ironically, is a very straight and level street. Once on Gay street it was obvious that the humidity was going to be a problem. I fell back behind a runner and paced with her, since the speed at which she was running was very comfortable and did not seem taxing. That pace at the file marker was a 7:48 pace. Well, that’s 16 seconds that I can put in the bank to reach my goal time of 49:59 or less. As we were crossing back over the river and into downtown, I was really looking forward to the water station, which historically was at the 1.5 mark. Mile 2 came in 8:07, which was right on pace… I could work with that. But where was the water.
At about the 2.5 mile mark, the water finally show its liquidity on Market Square. I though to myself that this would be past the 5 mile marker on the next path and would be a little too far to suffer in this heat and humidity. Mile 3 was in 8:02 and was pretty glad that I was steady for those last few miles. At this point I was starting to feel some effects of the heat and could tell that I was heating up more than normal. In the next quarter mile, I was starting to feel myself slow down a tad and could tell that I needed some water. At about 3.75 or so, I can to an intersection of Cumberland and State Street, where we turn west and head up a steep hill for a block back onto Gay street. As I hit the intersection I saw one of the wheelchair racers there… something must of happened because he should be done by now. As I started up the hill, which is about as steep for the short distance as the Lake Loudon Avenue Hill, I saw that the course monitor, a young female was starting to push him up the hill. Thinking, I thought that she would need some help. Halfway up the hill, I saw that they were about a quarter of the way up the hill. I turned back to finish the climb up the hill and I immediately thought of Episode 46 of Phedippidations Running Podcast, The Kindness of Runners. At the top of the hill, I turned about and sprinted to them, they were no more than halfway and I said “You’re going my way” more as a statement and less of an answer.
If you ever have to push a wheelchair racer, push the chair and not the person. Nothing bad happened, just FYI. So we made it up to the top of the hill. He said that one of his wheels had bind and so that was the problem. He must of have been better because about 0.1 miles down Gay street, he flew by. When I stopped pushing him at the top of the hill, my hamstrings were on FIRE! Yow! I wasn’t sure if the time pushing the wheelchair racer up the hill would greatly affect my time or not, but it wouldn’t matter. At mile 4, I was feeling really really hot… I could still run, but the desire to run was greatly diminished. In fact, I stopped to walk. I believe that this was the first short race that I had to stop to walk, ever. I went into my marathon survival mode and switched to a Jeff Galloway method of run/walk and walked for 1 minute and then proceeded to run as long as I could stand. That would have been 5 minutes. I had to stop again to walk. I really tried to limit my walking, but about 4.5 miles, I realized that I was probably going through heat exhaustion and that I really needed to manage by body temperature, or else something bad could happen. I knew that I had about a mile to go before the water stop and that was my focused.
I remember being on the course after mile 4, but it was a little hazy. I had run Mile 4 in 9:17, which was no walking and then Mile 5 was 9:49 with walking. I was trying to persevere with the heat and humidity and the slim chance that the sub 50 was going to happen. Once I got the powerade at the waterstop, I realized the time that I wanted was NOT going to happen. In fact, it could be the worst Expo AND 10k time to date… but the thing I feared the most was the hill at the end of the course. As I headed down Gay Street one final time before the turn toward the finish, I tried to imagine myself running through the finishing chute, but that was over taking by imagining how red I must looked. I even worried that I may be swaying back and forth and was even going through contingency plans in case I actually feel down from heat exhausting. I was at least still sweating, so I knew the heat stroke hadn’t set in. Luckily (if that’s the case) I have experienced heat exhaustion before and could tell the signs and since I knew what was going on, I could manage my running accordingly.
There were pictures being taken at two different points. I can’t remember the first time, but the second was at mile 5.75 and I will be anxious to see what I look like in that picture. I can’t imagine that I look very happy. When I hit the mile 6 marker, I stopped to walk. I was gathering all the energy that I had left in me to help me finish strong. I could not see the finish line but picked a point mentally and decided that once I reached that point it was “Do or Die”. I started moving my legs and it felt like I was flying… I as soon as I saw the finish line I thought “run faster, water quicker”… I came into the chute and ripped off the tab that keeps track of my age, name and gender for tracking… I couldn’t thank any of the volunteers because I was so exhausted. I knew that I needed water and that was all I was looking for. I found the water and only took one because I knew there would be runners behind me that would need the water. I would head down to the Athletic Courtyard and get some food and rest. I stopped by my car, I got a great parking space, and got my phone and headed down to the food. I got some more water and headed over to the Smoothie King table. I then headed over to the food table to get a banana, orange, bagel and some wonderful Oreos… yum!
Once I was done with the Smoothie, I could tell that I was feeling better. And I started to think of what I would say in my voicepost. I also called in a short race report to the podcast Runcast Weekly, he has a hotline and I have done that before. I wasn’t interested in staying very long, so I ate my stuff and left.
My office time was 55:21 which was considerably longer than my sub50 goal. However, Saturday was not my day and one of the many things that running has taught me is that despite investing training and time into what should have been a near PR (personal record) day, there are things out of my control. I could be upset about my performance, but when I am running, I an a complete optimist. There will be other races, there will be other PRs… I ran the smartest race that I could despite everything that happening around and to me. My 55:21 “defeat” was someone’s “victory”… I brush myself off and focus on the next goal. Just because I didn’t reach my goal, I still ran a good race in Hunter’s, Grandma’s and Dad’s name.
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