Saturday, December 12, 2009

Thunder Road Marathon Race Recap

Time: 2:29:39
Distance: 26.2 miles
Pace: 5:43
Place: 1st

Two for two. (Photo taken by Diedra Laird)

Grab a cup of coffee, this is going to be a long one.

It wasn't until Thursday when I started entertaining the idea of running Thunder Road and it really wasn't until Friday when I decided to toe the line. My training hasn't gone well for the last few weeks and I felt I needed something to jump start my focus on the sport. Running is a simple sport that many athletes and coaches make too complicated. My approach for Thunder Road was going to be one of patience and toughness. I knew that my body wasn't prepared to run 26.2 miles at a personal best pace, but mentally I was comfortable with going out for a really long training run.

To reinforce my casual approach to Thunder Road, the night before I cleaned our refrigerator of week old leftovers, drank a Pabst Blue Ribbon and two glasses of inexpensive Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon and ate a plateful of holiday cookies. It was a relaxing evening spent at home, but certainly not the straight edge approach I normally take when gearing up for big races.

I was excited to wear the Craft/Karhu uniform for the first time. I found the kit in a box of samples I obtained a few weeks ago. I already posted about the pair of Karhu Racers that I would be wearing, also, for the first time. Before leaving the house a little after 7:00 am I pinned two Strawberry Kiwi carbBoom! energy gels inside my shorts. Later I would stuff another packet of gel in each one of my Craft Performance Gloves. I was going to have to rely on the carbBoom! to get me to the finish line. It is almost inevitable to bonk the final six miles when you haven't done the long runs, so my hope was to stay fueled up on the natural ingredients of the four Strawberry Kiwi gels.

Meagan dropped me at the corner of the finish line and I spotted race director Tim Rhodes. He looked stressed and too busy to joke with me asking "how long is this race?" I scurried up to find the start line as I only had about 20 minutes until go time. Inside the convention center I changed into my snug racing flats, stuffed my extra clothes in my Fuel Belt backpack and ran down to the expo floor where I left my stuff with the Brooks rep, Brian Leonard.

I made it to the start line with a few minutes to check out the hitters. It looked like most standing at the front of the crowd were running the half marathon, but there were a few who looked capable of running sub-2:40. The national anthem was performed and the Nascar race car revved it's engine. We were off!

I spent the first few miles feeling the pace and judging the effort. My plan for Thunder Road was to run with the leaders through the halfway mark and then evaluate the race, effort, and benefits of soldiering on to the finish. There were no guarantees that I was going to finish, but at least I wanted to get some fitness benefit from the run.

A group of half marathoners shot to the front and formed a pack while the rest of us settled into about 1:20/2:40 pace. At least that was the buzz for target times in the group. I was asked by a reader of my blog what I was shooting to run. I can't for the life of me remember his name, and if he's reading now, my apologies. Not a great way to keep readers, but I wanted to give you a shout out.

I ended up settling into a groove with Greg Isaacs. We had never met before but he seemed to be holding a good tempo and we became partners for the race's early miles. This was Greg's first half marathon and I would later get a ride to Run For Your Life from him after the race. I learned that he also graduated in 2006 and that he ran for Clemson University.

The splits on Mr. Garmin were telling me that I was clipping along below 1:18 pace. I predicted that the leaders would hit the half somewhere around 1:18 to 1:20. My breathing was comfortable, my form was relaxed and my feet weren't too impaired. I knew Paul Mainwaring was looking to run about 2:40 and he seemed to also be running well near the front. I took a break from this post to read his recap of the race. He finished well under 2:40 with a new personal best/record of 2:38:16 and third place finish. Congrats.

The first 10k was excellent in terms of the neighborhood support, the gentle hills and the cool weather. I tossed an old shirt at five miles and donned the singlet with pinned number 1758 for the first time. I took my first carbBoom! around this time and found the flavor to be sweet. My "spinach" would serve me wonders today.

My pre-race plan sort of went out the window when I latched onto Greg. We worked our way through a few runners who had gone out a bit too hard. One of those guys told us that all the other runners ahead were half marathoners, so I assumed by 10k I was in the lead. Not necessarily what I planned for or wanted, but if that was the case I'd take it. Needless to say, I was a bit shocked when around mile eight I reeled in a guy wearing Race Ready shorts, Ravennas and a t-shirt. I wasn't so much shocked at his race kit, but rather when I asked him what he was looking to run and he said, "oh, I'll take 2:30 something." Wait, 2:3x? He's gone out pretty hard for a half marathon over two hours. I quickly glanced at his bib number and saw that it wasn't the green and white of the half, but the yellowish orange of the full marathon.

My attitude immediately changed because now I felt like I was in a race. The competitive instinct was triggered and my "long run" mentality started to fly out the door. If this was going to be a "race" then let's start throwing in moves to check fitness. Truly silly ideas for me to have at mile eight of 26.2, but that's what happened. For about 10 minutes we ran stride for stride and I became worried that I was going to fade late in the race. However, I gained a few steps on a hill just before crossing over Selwyn Ave. to jump on Queens Rd West.

Greg had ditched me by this point and I was running solo down the "Booty Loop." Looking up I could see the flashing lights of the police escort, a couple half marathoners, and pockets of spectators. The manager at Run For Your Life- University, Kara, wished me luck from the median. And, best of all, Meagan came out to cheer at the corner of Wellesley. She asked how things were going and I just gave her the "so-so" gesture. I was in the lead, I was only 10 miles in and I was having thoughts of being caught from behind.

At 11 miles I realized a guy on a bike was shadowing me. I asked, "are you assigned for me today." He was as long as I stayed in the lead. "Well, if we were going to be friends then I should know your name." Dennis and I became a duo for the next 90 minutes. Since I didn't get to thank him after the race as he pulled off about 150 meters from the tape, I'll do it here. Thank you Dennis.

Getting to 13.1 miles meant I was halfway home. I crossed the mats at 1:15:14 and figured I was eff'd. Who rolls out a 75 minute half on a rolling course to start what was only a marginally good idea? -->This guy<-- I was prepared for things to get interesting later on.

I got a boost of energy from the drummers near the Panther's stadium. I tried to keep tabs on the runner in second place (who I now know was Josh Beck). He was still within striking distance if I were to crumble late in the race. Near mile 17, I spotted Jay Holder, co-founder of the Charlotte Running Club, and told him he better not jump in and help those behind me. Normally, I wouldn't care, but the last 9-10 miles were no certainty. Getting caught from behind after 2 hours of running would suck. Jay ended up helping Paul to the finish.

I felt fantastic running back through Uptown on Trade St. I dropped splits of 5:30, 5:35, 5:35 and 5:30 from miles 15 to 18. The feeling was short lived as the stretch along N. Caldwell/Parkwood/N. Davidson was utterly terrible. The crowds were thin to non-existent, there was only one water station and the slight breeze made it's presence known. My mood improved a little once I made the turn into the NoDa neighborhood. There were a couple more groups of spectators sprinkled on 35th St. and near The Plaza.

Mentally the race would be over at 24 miles. If I could make it to 24, then I knew I could run for 15 more minutes and enjoy the moment. I climbed the hill at Hawthorne and could see Uptown in the distance. I still had mental images of "The Crawl" but was confident I was going to make it to the line. My breathing was still very comfortable which tells me that my aerobic base is still strong. However, you can't fake 26.2 miles of pounding. My quads and calves were suffering with each step and I could tell my toes wanted freedom.

Just before the turn onto N. McDowell St. I saw Aaron Linz riding his bike. He encouraged me to break 2:30 which I had some interest in doing, but I wasn't going to throw down the final mile. I was interested in cherishing the moment and playing to the crowd. But, there was no crowd. There were no spectators until about 200 meters from the finish. That was a huge disappointment on the day. I don't want to get on the negative train, but another disappointment was the post-race experience. I basically crossed the line, grabbed a Powerade, turned in my chip, was handed a medal, congratulated second place and then walked off to change clothes. A few others acknowledged the run, but for the most part if was a ho-hum atmosphere.

Approaching the finish in my Craft/Karhu racing kit. (Photo taken by Diedra Laird)

I spent the next 30-40 minutes wandering around looking for the awards ceremony. Finally, when I did find it in the back corner of the race expo with Greg Isaacs and Billy Shue (first time meeting Billy who was excited about his huge PR) it appeared to be over. Only a small group of Try Sports athletes were milling around and about five others who were looking for results. I was cold, tired and the stiffness was starting to set in. I didn't have a ride home from the race and when Greg said he lived near RFYL I asked for a lift. I left before the marathon awards ceremony which looks poor, but finding another 50 minutes of comfort Uptown would have been difficult. Simply put, I apologize for not sticking around.

I got dropped at Run For Your Life where Meagan was working for the rest of the day. I've run two marathons and she has missed the finish of both! I'll give her credit for cheering earlier thought. I chatted with a couple customers and received congratulations a few more times before going home to soak in some Epsom salt.

Today's performance was greatly unexpected and a time I can be proud of. I thought I had a chance of running with the leaders and perhaps winning, but to dip under 2:30 was a treat. My coach, Jeff, and I are in the process of perfecting two new training programs. Look for an issue of Runner's World featuring "40 days to victory" and "The Swine Flu Method."

I had a great time being out on the roads of Charlotte. Thanks to everyone who played a role in making the race possible.

You done with that coffee yet?

Yea, the shoes were definitely too small, but they worked great.

Splits according to Mr. Garmin (a little off from the course mile markers):
5:46, 5:59, 5:51, 5:45, 5:51, 5:38 (36:11 at 10k),
5:40, 5:42, 5:36, 5:37, 5:33, 5:40, 5:38 (1:15:14 at 13.1 miles),
5:36, 5:30, 5:35, 5:35, 5:30, 5:40, 5:39 (1:54:08 at 20 miles),
5:45, 5:45, 5:38, 5:38, 5:44, 5:37, 2:16 for final portion that Mr. Garmin registered as .40 miles, 2:29:41 for 26.40 miles according to him.


Mark Hadley said...
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Mark Hadley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Coach G-Unit said...


scooter donut said...

Great run man. Swine flu be damned, you've got the talent and insight to run fast at any distance, just keep that training under control. Top notch indeed sir.

LP said...

Awesome race yesterday! I hope that gives you the Winter Motivation you were looking for.

Whitney@whitsgettingfit said...

Congrats on an awesome race! I loved reading your recap on Theoden's blog as well.

Coste said...

ahhh PBR. is there anything that wonderful brew can't do?

nice run, btw.

Jilane said...

1) You're now 2-for-2 in marathons? Sick.
2) I showed that photo of your foot to quite a few people after you texted. My friends all think you're the biggest bad ass ever or the biggest idiot ever. I said both were totally spot on.
3) You were absolutely right about that cup of coffee.
4) Oh. Congrats.

weeman said...

" Running is a simple sport that many athletes and coaches make too complicated." Remember that the next time you're posting training run distances to the 16th decimal place.
I guess I should congratulate you too. Sick run dude

Suzanne said...

Well, what a great surprise. CONGRATULATIONS, Windrunner. All this and recovering from H1N1, too. Since you were 9 years old, I've always said, "That boy is a runner!" Sorry about the toes!

Timothy said...

Congrats on the win... an impressive performance for a solo effort. Recover well, keep rolling.