2014 Quad Cities Marathon: A River Runs Through It
September 28, 2014
It was a family venture out to the flat Midwest from hilly East Tennessee. I should create a blog post of the few days prior to the race. It involved an interstate detour because of a burning truck, fog lines, visiting family that I hadn’t seen in years and years, and meeting some others for the first time. Reasons why I was running this race are on a previous post.
The expo was held in the iWireless Center entertainment venue and wasn’t overwhelming. This made packet pickup pretty easy, although I would have put the Lookup Board just outside to make the flow easier. Jeff and I arrive fairly early on Saturday, we had a family reunion later that afternoon, so this was the best time to get there and back. I found that I was going to wearing the number 402 for this race. I hadn’t tried to ask for the #43 bib since the race was being held on my 43rd Birthday. It was cool that the Darlington Marathon did it for me in 2013, so once was cool enough.
When I went to pick up my race shirt, the lady asked, “Is this your first marathon?” I answered in a surprised, “Oh, no.” To which she quickly replied, “Is this your first Quad Cities?” and I replied simply “yes”. We also received a poster with the medal on a hand drawn rendering of the Race Start with the date, which should be suitable for a frame, someday.
A number of vendors were present, most of them local companies. So while most of them I couldn’t really use their services being from out of town, I did hit the booth with the free samples of Miller Lite. I was on my last 2 doses of antibiotics, so I was willing to risk taking a sample. At the Official Quad Cities Paraphernalia booth I scored a 2013 Quad Cities Marathon shirt for $5, since I was short a few shirts for the trip. The only thing I didn’t get to do was talk with the Pacers for the race. I wanted to ask if there was anything cool that their Pacer Captain did for them to get any good ideas. Also was going to see if any of the sub 4 Pacers would consider a trip to Knoxville in 2015 (Always Networking!).
When I woke up it was just a little early but I didn’t want to go back to sleep and then proceed to over sleep. I figured my brother would wake me if it got too late, but I didn’t want to take any chances. I went and got up, dressed, and Jen helped me put Rock Tape on my hamstrings and quads. I went downstairs for my normal pre-marathon meal of an Apple, Clifbar, Coffee, Water and Gatorade.
Since 2002, to carry food with me, I pin my gels to the outside of my short’s waistband and then flip them inside. I had 2 Accel gels (both Lime) which are my favorite of all the gels that I have used because they aren’t too sweet and have some protein in them to help regulate the sugar. I had picked up 2 new gels at Eddie’s Health Shoppe back in Knoxville, a Chia based Gel and a Gu Roctane. I know, I know… you aren’t supposed to eat anything new during a race unless absolutely necessary.
We had a prerace phootshoot before Jeff and I headed to Race Start.
We arrived with plenty of time before the start of the race. Finding our way into the mass of people lined up for what was turning out to be a beautiful morning, hoping the sun wouldn’t be too draining. Race Start was crowded but not bad even with 3,800 people hanging around for their respective race to start. I was a little surprised that all distances were starting at the same time: the 5k, Half Marathon and Marathon. After the gun fired, it took me close to 4 minutes to reach the Starting Line.
Miles 1 – 6.2 (55:51)
Thankfully, the race had the entire road for runners to spread out in the first mile. This relieved much of the congestion one people got going. I didn’t have to do too much swerving around runners to get to my target pace. I didn’t want to be too slow in the first mile and set myself with a time deficit and at the same time burn too much energy swerving through traffic. Jeff and I separated right at the start, he was thinking he’d have a 2+ hr finish for the Half.
The course for the Full and Half runners put us running over a bridge right at mile 1, while the 5k runners kept going straight ahead. Even with losing the scores of 5k runners, it was packed like sardines over the bridge. We had one lane of the bridge while slow moving vehicular traffic had the other. A few times, to avoid getting jammed in runner traffic, I run outside of the cones (shhhhhh).
Coming off the bridge, we were able to spread out again. Since I hadn’t seen the Mile 1 marker (located early on the bridge) and coupled with the congestion on the bridge, I wasn’t sure exactly what pace I was running. Too slow and I would have to make it up, too fast and I would pay for it later.
I crossed the Mile 2 marker at 18:36 which was a 9:18 average pace. I was pleasantly surprised that I was actually that fast, just about at right pace. I was sure I had been slower because of the bridge congestion. At the top of the hill, right before Mile 3, I saw my cheering section of Jen, The Boys, and Bree (my Sister-In-Law).
One thing I did in preparation for this race was to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. The forecast of Sunny weather earlier in the week did not sit well with me, so I planned for Operation Saturation. My rhyming plan was working well, because shortly after getting off the first bridge, I had to go! So, just past Mile 3, I ditched off the course and used the bathroom. During my very first marathon in 1999, I had to use the bathroom at Mile 4 but held it until Mile 17. I had trouble for the rest of the race because of it, so I’m very conscious now about making sure I take care of my business early.
Coming down the “big” hill during Mile 4, I passed one the Pacers, which comforted me because I was making the gains that I needed. Around the 4.5 mile area, the route hops onto a greenway that runs parallel with the Mighty Mississippi River. It’s much like the Neyland Greenway in Knoxville that runs alongside the Tennessee River. I took some time just to enjoy the view of the river and the scenic view it offered.
Miles 6.2 to 13.1 (1:56:11)
Somewhere before the Mile 6 mark, I caught up with another Marathon Manaic and we began talking. Turns out that it was Maniac #62, Steve from Wisconsin who has ran all 17 Quad Cities Marathons! FYI, there are currently 9,800+ maniacs and I’m #1225. We ran together and chatted for almost 2 miles along the greenway. Crowd support was nice on the greenway, there seemed to be a smattering of people just about the entire length of the greenway.
Right around Mile 8, the Half Marathoners left us making their way toward the finish line. We still ran a bit in Davenport (Iowa) until we crossed the Centenniel Bridge over to Rock Island (Illinois). As a hill runner, most of the marathon course was flat and I had already ran the “big” hills, so the run up the ramp and across the bridge over the river was a nice change of pace.
The Rock Island section of the course was pretty active. A bunch of Cheerleading Teams were at different corners being loud and encouraging. The course through the Rock Island section was a box that connected back up to itself. Thankfully, it went around the quaint downtown area and a residential section which provided some shady places to escape the wrath of the sun.
Just before the Mile 12 mark, someone had their radio playing the song “Cherish” by Madonna. It made me think of Chris, my brother who passed away in 2013, as Madonna was one of, if not his all time favorite artist. I sure wished he could have been there to see me and Jeff at the Finish Line.
Heading over another bridge, we made it to the Arsenal Island and to the half way point.
Miles 13.1 to 20 (3:00:06)
Just before the halfway point, I caught up with the 4:00 pacer. I continued past him as I crossed the halfway point at 1:56:11 which projected me to a sub 4 hour marathon (my overall Marathon goal). I had been in a similar situation back in the 2012 Chickamauga Marathon where I had been on target for a sub 4 hour finish but then started to slow down and hung on for a (at the time) 36 second PR finish.
This meant, I had some time banked, so I could afford to slow down a little if needed. On the Aresenal, we hooked back up with the Half Marathoner for a little bit and I checked my watch to see if by some chance I might run into (pun intended) Jeff and get to see how he was doing. I did some recreational math and determined that if we crossed paths, things would be going very badly for him.
The first part of the course on the Arsenal was fairly tranquil. Once we broke off from the Half Marathoners the number of runners became pretty sparse again. The route took us on a crushed gravel road right next to the river and since we were on an Island, the other shore was closer. The course then meandered through part of the golf course, again, no traffic and plenty of trees to offer some shade. I could hear Star and Stripes Forever in what sounded like bells being played off in the distance. At one point during the golf course, they handed out towels soaked in cold water. They felt so good. It was nice to take a mini towel bath to get some of the sweat and gunk off.
Leaving the golf course, we connected up with the Half Marathoners again just after the Mile 18 mark. The rest of the course through the Arsenal was on the main road, taking us past some buildings and toward the Rock Island National Cemetery. There was a radar
speed limit sign set up for the normal vehicular traffic, but with only runners on the course, it kept flipping back and forth from 5 to 6.
As we made our way closer to the cemetery, I understood for whom the bells (I had heard on the golf course) were tolling. The cemetery was playing an assortment of patriotic tunes with bells. The sound was strong but not earsplitting. After rounding a slight bend, the familiar white markers in perfect rows began to come into view. Orderly rows of veterans, in their final resting place, were in formation. An overwhelming sense of “something” touched the back of my neck. It was a humbling sight. I began to think of the different generations that were buried there and wondered how many of them I might have come across in the audiobooks on U.S. wars that I have listened to the past few years.
But whether or not I had listened to the account of any number of these soldiers, there was one that I knew, a certain SSgt Robert W. Tripp, USAF, from whom I received 1/2 of my DNA code. As I was running along side of the cemetery, following the marathon course, there was one point that our distance from each other was at its minimum. Yes, recreational mental calculus based thoughts while running, but the realization made me smile as he too was immersed in the sciences, an engineer. With a small tear in my eye, surely not a bead of sweat, I turned slightly toward the cemetery and gave him a small salute. I turned back forward, enough of being sentimental, there was a race afoot!
Mile 20 to Finish
As we left the Arsenal Island to go back over to the “mainland”, we crossed the 20 mile marker. I looked at my watch, 3:00:07, knowing at this point my legs were feeling heavy, my mind ran through the rigors of different paces and implications on finishing time. As it was, were I to keep my current pace, I was looking at a 3:59 finishing time. Realistically, I knew my pace would slow, but I wasn’t sure how slow I would become. There was 6.2 miles of exposure from the sun left to endure, the sun would be relentless and I, I would endeavor.
Making the math easier, slowing down to a 10 min pace, would add 1 hour 2 minutes, forecasting me for a 4:01 finishing time. Dropping down to an 11 minute mile pace would put me around a 4:07 So, I had some time in the bank to spend, if needed. However, if I wanted to achieve a PR, I could not let my average pace slip past 11 minutes per mile.
The last 6.2 miles of the course was the flattest part of the course. It was about 3 miles out then turn around for about 3 miles to the finish. In theory, you would think this is a good thing… and it is, to a point. Having hills, even small hills forces you to change the muscles you use so that no one muscle group has to do all the work. So, for me, I found the lack of hills, well, rather disturbing. All sun, no hills makes Terry’s legs fatigue faster.
Wouldn’t you know it, around Mile 21 I was looking for a place to ditch thanks to Operation Saturation. I wasn’t going to waste precious time standing in line for a portapotty. However, there was no place to politely ditch without a bunch of people around. If push came to shove, I would do what I needed to do but for now, I could still manage. I even went through a water stop and drank water and Gatorade even though I still needed to go.
Shortly after the water stop, I found a place and took a sharp 90 degree turn beside a trashcan shielded behind a wall. P.E.E. that’s how I spelled relief. My bladder thanked me and my legs enjoyed the rest while it lasted and then I was off again. Mile 21 split – 10:06.
I found myself closing in on the 4 hour Pacer (who had passed me at some point) and even hung with him for a short while. I realized my pace was a little fast and let him pull ahead by slowing down slightly. While there was still time left in the race, I had at most, an 8 minute 1 second window to still achieve a PR. My ultimate marathon goal of a sub 4 hour finish would have to come another day, but a PR didn’t have to wait, but it wouldn’t come easy. Mile 22 split – 10:02
For these last 6 or so miles, I took walk breaks when I needed and continuously drank all the water I could manage. No shade was available, the sun was draining and the temperature was still comfortable but rising. I welcomed another wet towel station along the way and took advantage of it in both directions.
I was watching the time that I had banked slip away at each mile marker. I knew though, I had to go as fast as I could without depleting my energy too early. I was limiting myself to walk breaks to a minute, preferably less. If I stopped to do my leg stretch, I knew I my pace would be slightly faster for a short period of time. Also, for time management, I made sure that I had the cap of my bottle off before I got to the water stop, and when my bottle was being filled, I would grab a water or Gatorade for the road. Mile 23 split – 11:06.
At the water stop near Mile 23, they filled my water bottle with the coldest, tastiest water I had ever put to my lips. It was ambrosia, but I didn’t get to enjoy it too long. At Mile 24, it was time to prepare for the Finish Line. At this point, my time was 3:33 and I knew that a PR time was probable, if I could keep steady.
Then, to my surprise, I saw the 4 hour Pacer, still moving forward but shoulders hunched forward as if in a daze. I had been there many times in races… moving forward to the finish line… somewhere out there. This was his first race as a Pacer, but even in his condition, he had done 10x better than I did in my first gig as Pacer. When you get to this point as a Pacer, where you know there is no way to finish at your goal time, there is the added weight that hangs heavy on your mind that you have failed. Runners were counting on you to get them to the finish line by that time and now it wasn’t going to happen. At least he was going to finish, I had a DNF (Did Not Finish) on my first pacing attempt. But as I tell the Knoxville Pacers in the last email before Race Day, if something happens, take care of yourself. It.will.be.okay! So today, neither of us were going to finish under 4 hours, but I could smell a PR… it was there in front of me… on the horizon. Mile 24 split – 11:26.
I model my prepping for the finish line (of any race distance) on what I believe astronauts might do when they are getting ready to land on the moon, or Earth, or may even Mars one day. For marathons, at the Mile 25 mark, I start to go over a systems check. Lungs, Legs, Stamina, Mind, Posture, Water Levels, and Energy Levels. At this point I have already scanned the runners ahead of me and mark them as ones I will overtake or that I might be able to catch before the finish. Mile 25 split – 10:51.
All systems were in check, my fatigue was being ignored due to the increased excitement of the finish line. I could make out the taller buildings ahead of me where I knew the finish line waited for me with open arms. The noise of the people and music at the finish line was becoming louder. It wouldn’t be long. One last scan for runners ahead of me, none close enough to over take, the PR was the most important thing. Mile 26 split – 10:50.
A row of traffic cones lined the road acting like landing lights for the runners. At the Mile 26 marker, I tried to finish off my water supplies and tossed my bottle off to the side. It served me well.
“Go at throttle up”
“Go at throttle up” was the last communication of Challenger to Mission Control. For the shuttles, during launch, they pull back their main engines shortly after lift off to minimize the maximum dynamic pressure on the shuttle while they are still in the thickest part of the atmosphere. If they didn’t, it would cause some very bad things. Then around the height of 35,000′ where the atmosphere is thinner, they speed back up. At this point they are travelling 1,626 mph and need all the power so they can get to reach 17,000 mph to escape Earth’s gravity. When they reach this point, if all systems are normal, Mission Control sends the “Go at throttle up” message and they open the throttle of the shuttle engines.
My “Go at throttle up” is the point where my calculations of how much distance is left in the race meets up with the maximum amount of energy level I have left. That is, where I begin my “kick”.
I was ready, it was time for throttle up. I saw the finish line clock ahead of me but couldn’t make out the time, it would me my focal point as it keeps my head up and eyes forward instead of looking down. My mind gave the command, “Go at throttle up”. I surged forward, increasing my speed. It was going to happen, there would be a personal record today… on my birthday.
During the last 0.15 of mile, I could here Jen and the Boys call out for me. Yay, they were here! Everything was coming together, but then my left calf cried out and I gave a small hop. Contingency plan created and engaged. Slow down in very small amounts to maintain speed, but not to push to hard to get a debilitating cramp. If I were to get a full blown cramp, limp, skip or crawl to the finish line… just keep moving forward. My contingency plan was not needed. Last 0.2 mile split – 1:28 (a 7:20 equivalent pace).
I crossed the finish line with my hands in fists and my arms over my head. In my excitement, I had forgotten to put up my fingers with the number of the finish. Last year at Darlington, I put up my fingers displaying “42” as it was my 42nd birthday. I noticed the clock 4:09:57 and panicked. “What? I thought I had… Wait, how long did it take me to reach the starting mat.” It had taken me 4 minutes. My watch said 4:05:56… what? 2 minute PR time, No Way!
Yes Way, my official time was 4:05:53 which was a 2 minute and 9 second PR time.
I received my medal and took the chocolate milk that was handed to me. I knocked that back immediately. My brain was dazed and confused, but I had done this enough times to move forward and look for food and my family.
Jeff found me and then Jen and the Boys. Jeff and I talked briefly how we did. One of his friends had finished right behind me. I grabbed some food from the food table and sat down and my body tried to get back to normal. I kept seeing the beer people had and wanted about 3 of them but I found a bench under a tent and sat.
After a while, my wits had come back and could think better. We headed out of runner’s area and headed back to the car. Looking back, I definitely wasn’t thinking very clearly because I never got any beer!
Official Time: 4:05:53
233 out of 708 for Overall Marathon runners
170 out of 414 for Male
35 out of 58 for Male Age Group 40-44
Observations Post Race
Had it been cloudy on race day, I believe I could have taken more off my finishing time. In fact, if I had another marathon in October, I believe I would have been able to seriously shoot for a sub 4 hour finishing time, my biggest marathon goal.
The winner of the Guess My Time, Win Crap Quad Cities Edition was Pete with a guess of 4:05:33, just 20 seconds off.
I’ll have to run the half sometime. I have a lot of family in that area!
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