When I last left you, we were discussing my race plan and my vision for the race. Quick recap. Run the tangents, visualize whirled peas & run a 3:29:56.
Let's play "The price is right". 4 of those 5 numbers are correct and in the proper slot. Which number is wrong?
We'll come back to that one.
Drove into town on Friday and headed to the hotel, which happens to be right next door to the Trade Center where the expo was taking place. I had heard that only 3,000 of the 23k runners had picked up their packet on Thursday. Can you say traffic jam trying to get to Hutchison Island?
Luckily, I knew a couple of "short cuts" and it only took us about 20 minutes to get onto the island and to the hotel.
We got settled in and headed over to the expo. I've only been to a couple of "big race" expo's, I'll be honest, I'm not a big fan. Don't get me wrong, looking at every single type of running accessory is cool, I just don't like being herded around like cattle.
My sweetest boo and I meet some friends, had a light dinner, and I sacked out at about 10pm. I slept for sh!t. Anxiety & nerves. Boo!
Waking up and grabbing a quick shower, I headed to the lobby to meet up with my buddy Tom and his wife Trang. With them were several other University of Tampa classmates of ours, Yung & Bea. Pause for photo ops! For some reason, I decided to turn on my Garmin & check it - as soon as I did, it flashed "Battery Low" WTH?!?!? I fully charged it right before I left Smyrna. I ran back to my room and got my charger and plugged it into the wall in the lobby so it could get some juice while we were hanging out. Would it be enough?
(See, we are spelling "Tampa" because that is where we went to school...never mind)
Short water ferry ride over to the start. Holy crap there are a lot of runners here. The pre-race energy was awesome. After a short mile warm up with Tom, we headed into our corral. It was really cool to be that close to the start. For me, it gave me the familiar feeling of being in a small race. I was only 25 yards from the starting line; I could see the stage with the race officials.
The temps were perfect. However, Tom & I noticed the flag on top of city hall was blowing out at a 90 degree angle. Winds of up to 20mph, this could be bad.
I waited until the last minute to turn on my Garmin. Within moments of the official start, our corral was moved to the starting line and we were off. Really cool running straight down Bay St. with 20,000 other runners.
As we left downtown and headed into Garden City, everything was perfect. I felt fresh, my breathing was good, it was as if I were out for an early morning jog. Hit the 5k mark in 26 minutes and started dialing down the miles. The crowd support in the early miles was awesome. These folks were lining the streets, welcoming us to their neighborhood, and wishing us well. There was a lot of debate amongst the local runners as to the course route; the decision to run through the "seedy" part of town. Honestly, the crowd support in this section of the course was one of the highlights of the day.
Passing through the 10k mark at 52 minutes, I was right on pace. I was looking forward to entering back into downtown and was hoping to see a few familiar faces along the way. I popped my 2nd gel and grabbed a water, checking to see my Garmin was still running and my HR was sitting around 152. A little high, but manageable.
Around mile 8, we turned right onto Liberty St and all I could see was spectators. IT. WAS. AMAZING!!! The crowd was 4 and 5 deep - spilling onto the road. There were little kids hold out their hands for "high fives". I must have low 5'd about 30 kids. The emotion and adrenaline was overwhelming. I am not going to lie, I got a little choked up. I turned to the runner next to me and said, "This is effin awesome, I feel like I am running NYC" By far the best mile and section of the race. This turned out to be my fastest mile of the day.
I cruised through mile 10 feeling good, hitting my goal of 1:22. We were heading out of downtown and into Gordonston. The neighborhood did a great job of welcoming us, I learned later that the neighborhood association had gotten together the day before and planted flowers in the median, along the course. Everyone was out cheering and having a great day. I must say, Savannah made me proud!
We soon split from the half marathoners and entered the Truman Parkway for a short section, going towards the baseball stadium. Miles were ticking away and my times were running great.
Mile 15 found us headed towards Savannah State University and we were once again blown away from the support. For about a 1/4 of a mile, lined on both sides of the streets, were students and athletes for the university. Amazing energy! I felt like such a rock star! I was initially envious of the half marathoners when we split off; they were getting to head to the finish. In hindsight, we were the lucky ones, as we were able to experience the crowd support at SSU.
I started to struggle with my HR at mile 17-18. I was running in the high 160's and knew this would be recipe for disaster if I couldn't bring it back down a little. I knew my 3:30 was gone but had a good distance on the 3:40 pace group. I was just going to HTFU and work through the next 8 miles.
Mile 20 found us heading back towards downtown and working our way over to the Truman Parkway. I knew this was going to be a tough section - just not this tough. Then it hit. Cramps. left calf, right calf. How can I cramp in both legs? Walk it out, stretch. HTFU & run. Beep! The Garmin dies. I can hear the bells and whistles sounding, this jet is going down in a blaze of glory! Enter onto the parkway and we are now running straight into a 20 mph headwind. DOH! This sucks!!!! How do I get out of this? Fake an injury? Marathons are stupid. I hate my coach. Why can't I just be happy running 5k's & 10k's? I ran a great half marathon today, cruised through to a 1:47. That is what I should be doing. How am I going to run a 40 mile trail race next month?
I had to regroup and stop with the negative thinking. Shit, there goes the 3:40 group. Mile 23, just a 5k left. Focus on 5 minutes of running and then take a 30 second walk break.
I am too familiar with the "death march", it's never fun. I just kept moving forward. I was looking over my shoulder, waiting for Tom to roll up on me. Lol, I didn't want him to catch me, but was hoping maybe he would and he could carry me in to the finish.
Finally off of the blasted Truman and out of the wind. 2 miles to the finish. We have rejoined with the halfer's. I was struggling, still cramping. Still no Tom. Keep moving forward.
I was less than half a mile away and could hear and see the finish crowd. I started running faster and my calves were screaming. It felt like someone was stabbing me in the back of the legs. I was cussing out loud. Poor kids. "Do as I say, not as I do" Apparently my wife, her mom, and our friend Kate cheered for me as I ran by - I didn't see them. Too focused on keeping my legs from seizing up.
I hit the finish line at 3:59:56. Exactly 30 minutes over the goal. New PR. I had a thousand yard stare. I was a little shell shocked. It took me a little while to wade through the finishers chute. Finally, I found my sweetest boo and was overcome with emotion. (Yes, even teh Snail can shed a tear)
The highlight of this race was the crowd support. With the exception of the 3 mile stretch on the Truman, It was amazing. If I never have to even drive on that road again, I'll be a happy man. running has high's and low's- the Truman was the low. It's funny, I was talking to a friend afterwards and I told him, "I just kept thinking, 'this will change, the next mile will be better' but it never changed" Only a day or two after did I realize that it did indeed change, the change just didn't take place until after I crossed the finish line. I needed to broaden my scope a little.
I had a blast seeing old friends and making new ones. I PR's by about 30 minutes. I put countless miles of hard work into getting ready for this race and although I missed my A goal, I feel like this race was a success. Now just to figure out this stupid cramping issue.
Oh, here is a finish line photo...a little pain is good, right????