Normally when I do a race report, especially a longer race report, I use a A-F Grading System for different aspects of the Race, but since the 2008 Rutledge Marathon was the inaugral running, I don’t think it’s quite fair to grade things, especially compared to other marathons that have larger budgets and have worked out some of the kinks of race logistics.
Friday night, I had just about everything packed and ready to go. I was anticipating having to rush around in the morning and having to battle the kids to let me out of the door… only to leave them with My Lovely and Talented Wife in their meltdown mode. However, despite using the microwave to heat up water for my Thermos and other noises in the kitchen, they didn’t wake up and I only left about 5 minutes late.
Rutledge, TN is a Rural City about 35 minutes of Downtown Knoxville and so while everything is right off of Route 11, I was beginning to worry that I had missed the race start location because it seemed like I was driving and driving. And it didn’t help that it was RAINING! Arriving to the marathon start, I proceeded to park and since it was being Staged at Ritter Farms, the parking lot was a field… a wet field. I began wonder if my Civic was going to get out in a few hours, because with the mud pits being generated and the rain not stopping… I might just have to run home.
Not 1 minute out of the car, I received a text from my Support Crew, I Run for my 1.5 Lives Susan, that she was here. I told her that I was heading to get my number and we met up at the barn that was being staged for Race Registration. She told me that her GPS had told her Ritter Farms was at a different location and that she would have been here sooner if she hadn’t turned around. That’s locations in East Tennessee for you…[ed. note: I tried to bring Ritter Farms up on a Google Map and 1) it’s TOTALLY in the wrong place, like Susan Said and 2) The Photos for this region do not get very detailed when trying to zoom in]
I can’t thank Susan enough for volunteering on being my Support crew. Not only is she Pregnant, but she was also on a vacation weekend with some friends and her husband in the Pigeon Forge (near Dollywood) area. I didn’t even have to use a Jedi Mind Trick to coerce her get her to come to the marathon. And had not she shown up, I would have TOTALLY understood. Not only was the forecast for low-mid 50s but it was supposed to rain until NOON. But Again, It’s East Tennessee… if you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes.
Now, this was the first time that I used a specific “Support” crew. In past marathons, I have had Cheering Crews (My Lovely and Talented Wife et al) and I have used the aid that has been on the course. This was the first time that I had preplanned to have stuff ready for me. Now, it helped that it was a double loop and that I would be returning to the course start to start the second loop.
In a Canvas Grocery Bag, I included 2 sports bottles: one labeled WATER and one labeled GATORADE. I Can’t remember everything else that was in there except for the very important STROLLER PACK. When I was going over what I had and when I would potential need it, I pulled the Stroller Pack out of the bag and asked,
“Have you heard my most recent podcast?”
“Uhhhhhhhh, which one?”
“Oh yeah, I have.”
“OKay, this is “The Stroller Pack”, if I ask for this, things went wrong”, holding up the gallon sized Ziplock bag filled with things that I found useful in my recent rash of unscheduled “Pit Stops.”
We waited around for quite a while, and it was very evident that the 7:35am marathon start was going to pushed back. Susan had overheard that someone received an email saying the marathon would be pushed back(and the website DOES have the updated time). But I never received one. Which was fine because the later start would help with the Sun coming up and although it was still raining would add some ambient light to the course. Around 8am, they herded us (haha, farm reference) to the Race Start.
As we were going over Pre-Race announcements we were blinded by light from the Sun. It had broken through the clouds and I was beginning to question my choice of wearing a wind breaker. However, it was still kind of windy and there were still clouds in the sky… and it was still cold, so having the windbreaker was a good way to 1) Break the Wind, 2) Stay Dry and 3) Regulate Temperature. AND I had a Support Crew, that if I ditched the jacket, it would be retreived!
So around 8:10, the gun, which was VERY LOUD, went off and we started running. In about a 1/4 mile, everyone was greeted with a head wind. A nice head wind. Although the actual weather conditions were erratic, the wind was constant, both in direction and in intensity. So for the first 7 miles we had somewhere between a 10-15mph headwind. It was strong enough to keep flags flapping in the wind and you could hear the metal clasps banging on the Flagpole. I don’t think anyone got video of the wind, I had meant to, but I got distracted with the whole marathon “thing” going on.
The “Official” Support on the course was really good. There were Support tables at Miles 1.5, 6.2, 7.9 and 10.9 which also meant that you got them again at 14.6, 19.3, 21 and 24 (website lists one more spot, but I can’t remember it… but that’s my problem!). At all of the Support areas you had: Water, Gatorade, Pretzels, Bananas, Oranges, PowerGels, PowerBars, and the PowerGummies. With the on-course support this good, I never had to use any of the Gel Packs that I brought, I was able to get everything on the course. And in the later miles when I needed my water bottle filled, they had enough to do it… and at the last stop, did it for me!
Now MY Support Crew had made signs! I don’t have the pictures hereyet , but I will post them when I get them and can get mine together! They were AWESOME. I don’t want to spoil them now, but they we VERY well done, and funny. In fact, the people that I was running with liked them as well.
It was difficult to catch the split times in the first loop, mainly because some of the mileage markers were spray painted on the ground and so if you didn’t see the split, you missed it. So, I know that my first 2 miles were in 19 flat, which was a 9:30min pace. I felt GREAT at this pace and with PLENTY of runners ahead, the wind wasn’t a factor until after the 2 mile mark when runners started to seperate. By Mile 3, I was already in at a 10min pace. The Wind was relentless and I was drafting behind runners to avoid having to battle the wind.
The course really wasn’t all that hilly. There was one very steep, but very short hill, everything else was pretty gradual. So, the hills were really a non-issue. For the 1st 7 miles of the loop, the course was on the side of Highway 11S except for some small sections. The Police presence was very good and there was never a point that I felt like target to the cars, nor did I have anything thrown at me. The Wind made it pretty cold for the first part of the loop and so I was glad to have the Windbreaker.
Around Mile 4, I started running with (after drafting for about a mile) a girl duo. One of the girls it was her 1st half marathon race and she was shooting for a 2:10 time. This was also her first time at this distance and after quizzing her on her current training, i was pretty confident that she would make the 2:10 time, but there was always the wind to deal with.
Unfortunately, I had to stop at the PortaJohn at the Water Station at Mile 4.4 and I lost 4 minutes in there. I have NO idea where the time went, but I was trying to avoid a major Malfunction and I DID! Castrophy Avoided. And now I had a mission… catch back up with the girls that I was running with earlier and get them to a 2:10 finish.
At Mile 7 we had the turn around point and so the wind would be at our backs. YAY! We’d Have a Tailwind! YAY! The Slow first part of the loop would be averaged out with a faster and easier 2nd section of the loop! YAY! The turn around dropped us in a road parallel to Highway 11S and lower by about 10 feet, thus having the buildings and trees protecting us from the wind. BOO! In Fact, on the second part of the 1st loop, it got warm enough that I had to take off my windbreaker because it was keeping me TOO warm! And then it rained for a short spell, then the sky broke open and there were some spots of blue in the sky… but the wind… never let up.
Somewhere around Mile 9, I caught back up with the girls from the first section. They were still running strong, but a little worn down. Looking at my watch, I knew that it would be kinda pushing it to make it in 2:10, but I divulged to them that I caught back up with them to make sure they would make it in their goal time.
I saw Susan somewhere around Mile 10-11 and I panicked! How did she get there? Um, her car. Could she get back to the race start by the time that I got there so that I could get my supplies… the things you think while running. Of course Terry, she has a CAR! Duh! Okay, disaster averted! And I got to see the signs that she had made… YAY because silly me thought she was just going to be at the Race Start/Finish area.
At Mile 12, it was final approach for my new Runner Friends. Of course, she told me her name, but I failed to remember what it was and the results aren’t posted for me to cheat and see what it is. I felt good at this point, so keeping pace for her was easy for me, but the distance had taken somewhat of a toll on her. Although she didn’t ask for it, I immediately went into “active coaching” mode and started coaching her in that last mile. Since she was fatigued, it was fixing her form/posture and breathing. Then to concentrate on the course ahead.
At one point, she said something and I immediately blurted out, “Less Talking, More Breathing.” So she concentrated and then in a Terry-Like move, in the last 0.1 of a mile, out of the blue, she took off and sped up to the finish line. I’m pretty sure it was 2:11-2:12 finishing time… I don’t know at this point.
Now, as I was, coming through the turnaround, there was my Support Crew, taking pictures! So, I should have a number of good Facebook Profile pictures to rotate through! But the best part was when Susan Said,
“What Do You Need?”
“You want to leave your jacket?”
“Sure,” I replied, totally forgetting that I had been pampered with being sheltered from the wind the last 6 miles and just had to deal with some rain and some heat…
So, I had a FULL bottle of liquid and I was ready to go! And it was only 0.2 of mile before I had to deal with the wind again. I caught up with another runner just as I was starting the 2nd Loop. There was a gust of wind and a splattering of rain and she said:
“I’m going to run behind you for a bit”
“Sure, go right ahead, I was drafting behind some runners at the start of the race, so tuck behind me”
We ended up running for a little bit together chatting about which marathon this was and which ones we had done… Joked about the weather… commented on the police presence on the course. But we parted ways, or rather she slowed down to prep for the steep hill and I ran until the base of it before walking up it.
Just before the 17 mile mark, I got “That Call” and for those seasoned Readers of this blog, that can mean only one thing… Awwww POOP! Sure enough. Despite the fact that I had gone BEFORE the race and then made the stop at mile 4.4, I was still getting that “Call of Nature”. I knew the PortaJohn wasn’t too far ahead (with in 0.5 mile) and thought I could make it. I couldn’t.
I scrambled for a secluded part of the woods were I could “commune” with Nature. The advantage to running in rural Tennessee is that you can pretty much do what you need to do without being seen. So, I did what I needed to do… another 4 minutes GONE! But, I was much better and I knew there was that PortaJohn that I could “freshen up” in.
As I was approaching, I could see Susan’s car… sweet! That meant Stroller Pack! As I was approaching there were other people near Susan’s Car. Huh, that sure looked like our van. And there’s two tiny people holding up signs as big as them! And there’s a hot looking oriental woman standing there… sure enough, it’s My Lovely and Talented Wife with The Dynamic Duo with signs and The Elder was in an ASDa shirt!
But as I approached my Mission was clear:
“Susan… Stroller Pack!”
“Uh-oh,” she said going to her vehicle to get it.
I dashed into the PortaJohn and came out minutes later, feeling clean. I stopped to say Hi to everyone and had took some picture of me with The Kids. The Younger must of had one of the PowerCranky gels because he was NOT a happy camper (could have been the wind). The Elder was very enthusiastic holding up the sign.
But, I still had about 9 more miles to go… 3 of which were with a headwind. I know that my Mile 17 Split included both my Nature Commune and the PortaJohn and it was 20 minutes and change. So it really took alot of time just in that mile.
When I came to the Water Station at mile 19ish, I told the guy, “The Only Weather we haven’t had was Thunder and Snow.”
“Oh, they are forecasting that [snow] for tonight.”
Great. I should be finished by then, just 1 more mile and I will be able to get out of the wind and down in the sheltered area. By Mile 20, I was still feeling pretty good, considering everything (i.e. The Wind and other weather phenomenon). At the Aid Station at Mile 21, I was already done with my water bottle and needed a refill, that was the first sign that I was starting to feel the effects. Just after the Aid Station, I saw Susan and she asked where I was and I was just at Mile 21… and I remember still feeling pretty good.
And Mile 22, I caught up with the Runner Chick that I was running with at the beginning of this 2nd Loop. We caught up on the last 5 miles and chatted about the weather. In the span of roughly 1 mile, the blue skies that was letting the Sun beat down on us, clouded up and some cold rain came down. Only to shortly clear up (this happens when the wind can move the clouds around)… well, at least, rain went away, but the clouds stayed.Until about 15 minutes later when the Sun was shining and the Rain came down again from a dark rain cloud in the North.
I can’t remember exactly which mile it was, but we saw an AWESOME Rainbow off in the distance. It was hanging really low in the sky. Actually it appeared to be just North of us, within the hills in the background.
Seeing that a time anywhere NEAR my Terry Anticipated Time of 4:05 was out of the question. Perhaps it was after doing the math in my head realizing I would need a near World Record performance to make up the time and distance. So, I had decided that I was going to hang with this other Runner. We stopped when she needed to stop to walk and we ran when we could. It seemed that we were on the same Pain Page, because whenever she stopped, I was just about to stop. Her husband was running Support Crew for her, so she was able to get some outside motivation.
I could tell that she was getting bummed about her time. Her previous slowest time was 4:24 and when we passed that she made the comment about it. I tried to console her that the marathon that was my worst experience was the one that I learned the most, so there is hope in races that go poorly, if you can look at from a point of view other than “I failed to get my time.”
I got see Susan again… with a different Sign… She made 2 signs with 4 seperate Messages!
So, with the Motivation of NOT coming in over 5 hours, we decided to focus on the finish and head for home. At the Mile 24.7 or so we came out from the balmy, still area out in the wind-exposed colder section of the race course. In the 1st Loop, there was no benefit in the tail wind, it’s as if it had changed directions for those couple miles, just for me. But now on Final Approach, I was getting a tailwind!
The tailwind was nice for all of about 3 steps until the force of the wind was causing me to run faster than I wanted to run or rather than my legs could handle. Soon enough, I saw the Barn, then the sign for Ritter Farms and then the Clock and then… I was finally finished with this marathon.
Despite the miserable Wind Conditions, I felt pretty good about the marathon. I think that even with my “Calls of Nature” I would have a time that I would have been happy with. I came to terms (as something that I learned in a marathon once) with my finishing time as it is. The 4:50 tells a story, it’s just half of my quest to be a Marathon Maniac. Although all of training (and your Guess My Time guesses) suggest that I should have been on the other side of 4 hours… like 4:20ish (with the “Calls of Nature”) but we can never predict the weather conditions 16 weeks out from when we start training.
The marathon was a very good experience but I don’t get to dwell on it very long. I have another one in a few days, and that one is definitely in uncharted territories… so it’s time to Reload, Recharge and Prepare to battle with some Flying Monkeys!
EXCELLENT! Yep – that’s the way I remember it. LOL!
I like your point of view; each marathon DOES tell a story! When you mix that fact with an excellent storyteller, you have yourself one heck of a blog post!
Great job on not only finishing but doing so much to help other runners along the way! Wow…you must be supafly to get your own support crew! Now go rip it up with the monkeys this weekend!
A valiant effort. Enjoy your brief respite and be ready to tackle the monkey.
Way to get it done! Indeed, weather can be so unpredictable at races. You just have to make the best of it. And YOU DID. Congrats on one down. The best part about doing races close together is perhaps not having much time to dwell on a race that didn’t go as well as you’d hoped.
I’m so envious of your support crew – all I ever get is a cheering crew. BTW – great blog post and great race!
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I love your attitude Terry – and I totally agree about learning from each race.. let’s see where that leaves you with the flying monkeys..
I know it was tough to have such a high time, but it sounds like you made the best out of it. I know there are emotional high and low points during a marathon. You did well with the lemons that were handed to you.