Training Motto: Train, Just in Case.
Here is the grade:
Expo/Registration: B ; I didn’t go to the past a dinner or pre-race pickup., I drove down from Knoxville the day of the race. I did have a little trouble getting to the race site. THe directions on the race form and the directions from Mapquest were totally different. Thankfully, I had been there before, so I had some vague idea of where to go… and it paid off. Once I found a place to park, I followed the crowd of people to Packet Pick Up. I never saw any signs on where to go but the crowd of people made it easy. It was packed in the little gym and it took me a second or two before I found the preregistered table.
Race Goody Bag: A ; I haven’t plundered through it all yet, but there are at least 2 SoyJoy bars and 2 bags of Clif Bloks. You can always score high points with free stuff!
Weather: A ; It was in the 40s for most of the race. It started to warm up just a tad toward the end of the race but it still was very comfortable. There was a slight head wind from time to time, but the course layout sheltered us from both the wind and most of the time.
Course: A- ; The course is a very gently rolling course of which about 23 miles of it is inside the Chickamauga Battlefield. The course is protected from mature pine trees that offer ample protection from wind and the sun. Not only does the trees offer protection but provide a very scenic course as you run past countless monuments, canons, and markers in the battlefield. If you have any interest in history, there are markers with descriptions about activities that took place in certain location. There are 1 and 1/2 drawbacks to the course. The full drawback is that there are often a couple of miles between spectators, so you can go for some time without crowd support, but when you do get it, it is very refreshing. The other drawback that’s only a partial drawback is that it loops twice in the park. The bad thing is that you have to do two loops. The good thing is that you have an idea of what to expect in the later races. This way you know when you are going to get aid stations, crowd support, have to face hills, etc.
Volunteers: A ; Volunteers were great on the course. There was plenty of water, powerade, bananas, and other foods. I think the only thing that I had a problem was that would call out “water, powerade”, but you didn’t know which side or what order until you were right there. This is more of a perk than anything else and is more beneficial to faster runners because they don’t have to slow down as much or weave.
Official Course Support: A+ ; Because there were many locations on the course that were pretty far between aid stations, aides on bike patrolled the course. They were constantly around, with big yellow signs on there backs saying “Runners Aid, Ask Me For Help”, you couldn’t miss them.
Finish Line Spread: B ; They were out of pizza when I got finished. I was going to cheat with a piece of gluten (half piece) but I opted for the Southwest Chicken Soup, which was a nice touch. I’m sure there was better food there, but mid/back of the packers just had to deal with the leftovers, which is pretty typical at any longer distance race. They did have plenty of water and powerade at the finishline, which was better than anything.
Shirt/Medal: A- ; The medal is a standard metal medal with the race logo. It’s a decent medal and will go in it’s own shadowbox along with my running bib and finisher’s certificate. The race shirt was totally over the top. Not only was the race shirt a LS tshirt, it was a technical shirt (moisture wicking) as well. Not only was it a technical shirt, but it was a brand name (ASICS) shirt as well. Very, very cool!
My Race: A ; Give how little I had trained for the marathon
I started the race with a hat, gloves, shorts and a long-sleeved shirt for the mid 40s temperature. Something happened at race start that I have never seen before and it was totally awesome. The national anthem was done by bugle, which in itself is pretty cool. Shortly after the bugle started, I hear a murmur in the crowd that became clearer that the runners were singing the national anthem. Typically, you get a few people who sing it, but this was a majority of the runners. The volume never was too loud, it was the most reverent version of the national anthem that I have ever heard.
Miles 1-4 [36:33] For about the first few miles, I was having a hard time (my perception) to find a good pace. The weather was cool and my hamstrings were not warmed up yet. This was the coldest temperature that I had run since the fall and I wasn’t accustom to it. It wasn’t cold enough for me to warrant wearing long pants, especially since it was supposed to get up to the 50s at some point. Both hamstring felt like knots in my legs and I had an idea that by 2-3 miles they would warm up, but they didn’t.
Miles 5-9 [1:22] I’ve found a nice 9:10ish pace for the first 9 miles. I had paced with a few people the first 5 miles as a way to keep me from going out too fast, but by mile 7 my hamstrings were warmed up and I was on my own. At the turn around point at around 9.5, I see that I am about 45sec to 1 min ahead of those that I paced with earlier. I figured that if I were to slow down, that I could pace back with them… like a safety net.
At the aid station at mile 8.5, I did have a gel packet malfunction. I opened the gel, normally, but as I was bringing it up to eat it, I squeezed prematurely and shot a big squirt of gel on my chin neck and some even dribbled down my running bib. I have a picture to include.
Mile 10-13.1 [2:00] By mile 10, I already had my gloves off as I was warm enough, but still needed the hat. The shade of the trees really helped in keeping the runners sheltered from the sun as there were few clouds for protection. Had most of the race been in the sun, I wouldn’t have fared as well. Just after mile 11, I took the hat off but proceeded to carry it with me, I wasn’t sure if I would still need them. The second loop starts at mile 13. My chip time was 2:00:26 and for the first half, I ran a fairly consistent half. I only had to take a pit stop, once at mile 11 which threw off the pacing for that mile, all the others were a low 9 min pace.
Mile 14-20 [3:04] It was about mile 17.5 that I could feel the first permanent fatigue start to set into my legs. It wasn’t bad, but I knew that I was on the other side and that I would eventually hit The Wall sooner, rather than later. After the aid station at mile 18, I had miscalculated the number of gels that I had. I knew that I brought 6 but only remembered eating 5 after the mile 18, but feeling for the gel packets, I couldn’t find any more. This was going to be a slight problem as I would need to scavenge for food at the aid stations. At the 20.5 aid station, they were offering Clif Bloks which I had 2 and felt better very quickly. I finished the first 20 miles in 3:04:14, which was a 9:14 min pace and only 44 seconds off pace of my predicted 4:02:05 finish. It was nice to know that if I missed pace for a mile or two, that I wouldn’t be sunk.
Mile 21-25 [3:56] By now, my legs are hurting, both quad and hamstrings. I’m also getting pains in both shins, something that I hadn’t expected. I imagine that I wasn’t 100% healed from the shin splints before. Then something funny happened, not really believing that I missed calculated my gels, I searched again and found the lost gel. It was wedged in such a fashion that I could not feel it the first time. So after the slower Mile 22, I had a gel for the 23.5 aid station and was able to salvage paces at mile 23 and 24 of around 10:20 pace average. For these last 6 miles, I was unsure if I was going to get a PR or not. I could imagine that I was and I could imagine being really close but not making it. I hadn’t hit The Wall yet, I still had the will and power to move forward, but I could tell that it was coming fast. At Mile 25, I started my marathon survival mode, but I really should have started it earlier.
Finish [4:08] At the 25.2ish point, is when I had to stop again. This time it was That Wall that made me stop, but I didn’t walk. I stopped, stretched and then started to run again. I knew it was going to be like this for the rest of the way, but I wasn’t sure when I would stop again. Just after Mile 26, I had to stop again, this time a little more defeated than before. I knew I was really close not just from the finish line, but also from a PR, yet it was hard to move forward. Then something happened and I had that spark again.
The last 0.1 of a mile is down a different street that the one I stopped on. I had a little way to go before making the final turn to the finishers chute. I’m in a daze when I had stopped and then I’m snapped out of it as a runner that I had been passing each other early passed by me. I figured that if nothing else, I would pace behind her and that would carry me to the finishline. I started following behind her by about 5 feet or so, but then I could feel some strength come back to my legs, then my mind focused again on the PR time and I picked up speed. As I rounded the corner the first thing I saw was the clock reading “4:08” something and realized that I could still make it.
I ran as fast as I could to get to that finishline. I don’t know if it was a 8:00min pace, a 9:00 min pace or a 10:00min pace. All I know is that it was fastest that I could run and it was enough. My official Gun time was 4:08:53 and my Official Chip time was 4:08:38, a 35 second PR.
The volunteers led me to get my chip off. At this point I was pretty out of it. I knew that someone would take my chip off and that I needed water. Someone gave me a medal and I looked around for some water. I found a water and powerade then found a patch of grass so I could collapse. I sat down, took a drink of the best powerade ever and then laid down on my back and reveled in the new PR that I just ran.
After a couple of minutes to regroup my thoughts, I found myself making my way to post race food. My legs were sore from top to bottom, but I could still walk. I had some Southwest Chicken soup, which I thought was a great post race snack. It hit the spot and didn’t make me feel bad for missing the pizza, which now I am glad that I didn’t eat. I’m going to post a “what I learned at this race” soon, because even though this was my 10th, I stilled learned a few things.