2010 Flying Monkey Marathon
Percy Warner Park, Nashville TN
November 21, 2010 [ed. Note: I noticed that although I wrote the majority of this blog post 3 months ago, I am not finally finishing the Race Report exactly 6 months since I finished the race]
This was my 3rd Flying Monkey Marathon and once again, it did not disappoint! Despite the fact that my average weekly mileage was a pitiful 10.08 mile average over 16 weeks of training with the long run of 18 miles, it was still an awesome time. I will have to say that I would not recommend such a lean training program for the marathon unless, of course, it was because of necessity. However, the one thing that saved me was experience, not only with the race course, but also with the marathon. The 2010 Flying Monkey Marathon was my 17th Marathon start and with 1 (all important) DNF (Did Not Finish), I know what I can handle, how to handle and what to do if things start “not going well”.
The Theme of this year’s Monkey was “Groovy”… Monkey Groovy. Each year has a theme and this theme influences the Volunteer Shirts, Runner Shirts, Posters, Emails, etc… Seeing that it was the 5th Running of the Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon (the official marathon title), the “groovy”, from my point of view, came from the peace sign “V”. Not only an awesome 1980’s Alien show, but also Intergalactic sign of ‘Peace’ (or ‘Victory’, or [Editor has removed his own content]), it was Monkey Groovy… Peace, Love and Hills.
Originally, I was supposed to travel with my Family Entourage, but something close to the Bubonic Plague had visited our house earlier in November and it was agreed that it would be best for me to fly solo to Nashville for the race. This was fine because I was having thoughts of 2009, when I arrived there on race day, I had just enough time to get my packet, find my number, shove everything else in a bag and get to the starting line right as the gun went off. Seeing that this was my 3rd time running, I was comfortable without having any personal crowd support while I was out running (again, another helpful experience tidbit). I drove to Nashville area the night before. I ended up catching up with a friend from Longwood who lived in the area and had dinner with her and her awesome family.
I had everything ready for Race Day ready to go in the hotel room. Since I knew there would be no chance for me to come back and shower, I had everything ready so that I would get ready for the race AND check out. So, what to do in hotel room the night before a race? Seeing that we have not had cable in our house since Sept 2009, the first thing I did was turn on ESPN and watched some College Football. Then just flipping through some channels, I found “Bloodsport” on Versus Channel. Ahhh, the great B- 1980’s movie with Jean-Claude Van Damme. The marathon is like Chong Li “You break my record, now I break you, like I break your friend.“… kicking the hell out of you, trying to beat you down into the ground… and you Frank Dux “You told me to use any tactic that works, never to commit yourself to one style, to keep an open mind!”, with everything stacked against you, have to find the inner strength to find a will to win. So with vision of Kumite in my head, I drifted off to sleep.
Race Day! Weather Forecast looked decent for the day, overcast, 50ish. However when the sun rose, there seemed to be an absence of clouds, it was pretty… but every marathoner knows that the unshielded Sun is one of the worst things possible for a race (really, for any distance but the longer the race the greater the exposure). I kept that in my mind… for race day strategy. At least most of the course has partial shade with the trees (with no leaves) but some stretches are fully exposed to wind and sun. Arriving at the Race Site, I found myself parking quite a bit further away then I thought. The race is growing in popularity, which is good, especially because I have faith that the Race Director (Monkey Trent) will not go “commercial” with this race, so more people running should equal more swag (and we get a nice Race Packet already!).
Enjoying the extra time from arriving onsite to having to be there for race start, I prepped the car for the most efficient post race experience. Putting things I would need for the car ride home in a logical (at the time) place and just plain taking it easy. With about 10 minutes to go, I headed up and got my Race Packet. One of the “neat” things about the Flying Monkey Marathon is that the first race number that you get is the race number you keep. So when I signed up in 2008, the “newbies” running bib numbers went from 400-599, and I was knighted with #438. So, I shall forever be Terry – 438. Oh, and the bibs are Personalized with your name as well and being Monkey Groovy, the running bib color was Tie-Dye with a nice “Groovy” font.
I got everything out that I needed for the race from my race bag and put it off to the side. I came prepared this year for the post-race with a Sponge Bob folding chair for a place to sit down after the race. Heading to the start line, it was time for the pre-race Marathon Maniac picture which is all the members of Marathon Maniacs running the marathon. I used the 2008 Flying Monkey Marathon in conjunction with the 2008 Rutledge Marathon to qualify for the Marathon Maniacs. I missed the picture in 2009 from my accounts earlier.
And then the race started and while this was my 17th marathon start, there was something VERY VERY different about this race. In fact, in the 12+ years that I have been a runner, this was the first race that I would run this way. And what is one of the Cardinal Rules of Marathon? “Never do anything new on race day”. This race, I was Chronologically Naked! I didn’t have a watch… and it was different… but not ‘bad’ different.
For years, I have worn a wrist watch… 24hrs a day, 7days a week. The only time that I would take it off is when I would put on a nice dress watch or the watch band I was wearing broke off. In either case, I would quickly put on another watch, because I have to know what time it is to help with my (and the kids) schedule. Sometime in September, I don’t really remember now, my watch band broke and, of course, the watch that I really really really like has a watch band that is not replaceable. Once it breaks, the only thing to do is to cut the band and fashion a pocket watch or something and get another one. In this case, we didn’t have the budget for a new watch… and with not having a backup, I had to rely on something else. For running, it turned out that while it was very awkward at first, it proved to be refreshingly new. I started timing my runs by using a Stopwatch App for my Palm Pixi to record the entire time I was away from my car. I didn’t want to carry it with me since I didn’t have a carrying case for it and while it’s not bulky, I didn’t want to have the hassle.
Without having the watch there during my training, I had to run based on feel and not necessarily be motivated/depressed based on my split times. During the marathon, not having a watch was not a problem as well. Since I wasn’t going to be setting any sort of Personal Course Records (based on my lack of training), I wasn’t worried about hitting time targets. There were a few people out there calling split times, so I was able to do some recreational math to pass the time as I tried to calculate my pace.
Since this post is grossly delayed, I am going to spare the Mile by mile details. I know, those are the most exciting parts… to see what kind of trouble I get myself in, yeah, yeah train wreck. One thing that I did notice was that around Mile 21, when I was pretty worn out, I was still mentally in the race. I remember running up a hill and being pleasantly pleased that I wanted to continue to run up the hill before I took a walk break where as the same spot in the previous year’s race, I was starting to get a little loony. And so as I approached Mile 25, it was time to switch into Finish Line Mode.
My Finish Line Mode is a component of racing that I train for almost each time I run. I have to give props to Matt Tartar of The Dump Runner’s Club for having a podcast episode about Finish Line (perhaps Episode #10?) strategies that prompted me to put a bunch of pieces along with some things that he does into a unified strategy. My strategy is the same basic sequence, but the longer the run, the longer my Finish Line Mode will take. Like anything with running, it has to be constantly tweaked and altered as needed because of weather, course, or my motivation.
I would be called a ‘Kicker’ if you were to label my running type. I will reserve some amount of energy during the race and try to pool it together at the end for one last kick. The problem with Kickers is that you have to understand the relationship between your effort during the race with what you will be able to do at the end. There are times where you might think you have more in the tank and so you kick too early. Flash and burn. Then again, you might start too late and end at the finish line with a lot more in the tank. So what do you do? Practice! Of course. Both in actual races plus during training and that really helps during a race situation where you are trying to finish as best as you can.
My strategy goes pretty much in these phases which I am sure that at one time, I had official “labels” to them, but have slept since then. The first stage is Assessment of Self, how do I feel, what hurts, etc. The next stage is Assessment of Competition, who is ahead of me, who can I realistically catch, who is behind me. Once I have the information from those two stages, I then build a “plan”. Typically, up to this point doesn’t take too much time for long distance as you have plenty of time to contemplate you and the World and this race.
For this race, there was a group of 3 runners ahead of me around 50-60meters ahead of me. I wasn’t exactly sure if I could over take them, but that was my plan. Stage 3 is the Engage Stage. For the runners ahead of me, I tried to find the pace that they were running and increasing my pace so that I was gaining ground on them. One of the guys of the pack started to drift slower and soon fell back of the other 2. I approached to within 10 meters of them, but made sure I did not pass, as it was still too early and I didn’t think that I had enough energy to sustain a pass and any attempt to challenge.
The first and last 0.3 of the race is run on grass. Going out is not that big of an issue, but finishing, the uneven terrain can feel horrible for tired legs. Also, there is a big 90 degree turn around a tree for the final ~0.15 miles straight into the finishing chute. You can hear the finish line for the first time back around mile 25, then just after you get on the grassy part of the course, you can hear and SEE the finish line. Now on the grass I remained that 10 meters away, in my time following them, it seemed to be that one of them was running this race for the first time. The other runner was a seasoned runner and had run this course a couple of times and was running with his friend. Running on the grass felt much harder than usual, but I think it was a combination of being close to the finish line and trying to manage enough to pass them at the end.
The last stage consists of the final approach. It is one last inventory of what energy I had left, who was in front of me and when to let loose, i.e. “kick”. Emerging around the tree on the last turn, I could now focus on the finish chute, primarily the race clock. I started to lengthen my stride as I began to ready for the final push. At ~0.1 mile, I decided that was the time to kick. Lengthening my stride had put me at a faster pace and so I was covering the 10 meters the runners were in front of me fairly easily. They didn’t have any type of (obvious) plan to kick at the finish and so I passed them. But then I heard the more experienced runner tell his friend something and start to engage me to overtake me.
RATS! I hadn’t planned for a challenge! I had planned on getting to that pace and then passing with the intent to stay at that speed through the finishline. I didn’t think that I would need to speed up and honestly at that moment that I realized that it was a sprint to the finish, I wasn’t sure what to do. Could I maintain or would I crash and burn and BOTH runners pass me at the very end? Who knew, but this wasn’t a “fun run” marathon… it was a race.
After my mini-panic attack on being challenged, I tried to increase my speed to as fast as I could. I have NO idea how fast I was actually running, I’m sure it wasn’t as fast as it felt, but an all out sprint at the end of a marathon is tough when the last 26.1 miles you’ve run a 10-11 min pace and are now *uh-um* “sprinting” at a 8-9 min pace. Form, at this point, is not one of the first things you are thinking about, so everything is bouncing around as you try to keep breathing and ignoring that your legs are getting very very mad at you. The closer we came to the finish line, the runner behind me didn’t seem to be going away. RATS! I had to find another gear somewhere. How, I don’t know. Make one up! A mental gear. At this point, sure why not, sure there was absolutely NO fortune and glory for a sprint finish at this part of the race, even the photographer wasn’t taken pictures of finishers at this time.
So, in my mind, I forced myself to push “faster” and used a mental image of me accelerating to fake running faster, at least to myself. My eyes were locked on the clock, I was still moving forward, my feet hadn’t tripped on anything, my legs despite objecting to this sprinting nonsense after a 26 mile warmup had not buckled, my lungs were trying to get any molecule of air that it could find, my heart was probably at a new max heart rate for me and then it was all over. I crossed the line.
Trying to be The Good Runner in the finisher’s chute, I ripped off the tag on my bib and held it up in air, for anyone, preferably someone with the race, to take from me. I was delusional trying to get oxygen, where was that ambulance? They have oxygen. I knew I had to keep moving forward to prevent my legs from taking advantage of loss of momentum and let gravity take over. Only half-delusional at this point, because I knew I had to get my finishers medal wherever they were, I kept moved passed the chute and POOF there was the volunteer with my finisher’s medal. Ah, the success of finishing… a finisher’s medal was all the fortune and glory that I needed. Now, with my breathing almost back to normal and some adequate blood flow back to my brain, I started to become more aware of the world around me. Oh, I’m cold; I need a sweatshirt. Oh, I’m thirsty; I need a beer. Oh, I’m hungry, a beer would help.
One of the things that I love about this particular race is the culture that the Race Director, Monkey Trent encourages and demands at this venue. While they were presenting the awards, when a runner or runners were nearing the finish line, he would say to us over his Bullhorn… “why aren’t you cheering? MONKEY! MONKEY! MONKEY!” until the runner(s) would cross the finish line. It’s expected whether you are an Elite, and middle-back of the pack runner or a Volunteer.
Mark Your Calendars! November 20, 2011
Registration is on August 1st at 8am CST, if you try to register at 8:33am CST based on the 2010 registration, you will be too late, you have been warned.