Monday, January 16, 2012

Charleston Marathon Race Reports

We had a great time in Charleston.  I finished the marathon in 3:54:10 for a nice 30 minute PR, and Kelley finished in 5:39:33 for a 17 minute PR.  We had a blast hanging with my brother and our friends Joe and Gina, so it was a good time all around.  Official Results are up here.

How did I do with the goals?
1. PR - a 31 minute PR no doubt is a success.  Yes.
2. Go sub-4, beat The Snail.  Yep, I put a few minutes on him.  Success!  I went sub-four, and beat Thomas's PR by about 5 minutes.  But he deserves some serious props for running his first 100k in 12:57 on saturday too.  He ran for almost my entire Ironman time!
3. I'm not overtrained 3:30?  fail.  I may be a bit overtrained or under-recovered, depending on how you look at it.

Friday we got out of Raleigh about 1 pm and made it into Charleston about 6 and went right to the packet pickup.  We ended up meeting Joe and Gina there, got the packets and headed downtown for some dinner.  We ended up at Joe's Pasta for some unbelievable chicken & pasta in a gorganzola sauce.  Amazing stuff, and perfect for the night before a big race.

After dinner we made it out to James Island to Michael's house and visited with them some before crashing hard.  I slept pretty good, Kelley did not.  6 am came around way too early Saturday morning.

Turns out, it was much much colder than I was expecting.  I thought it was supposed to be in the mid-50's all day, turns out it was more like the mid-30's.  Luckily, the race shirt was a technical long sleeve shirt, so I wore it during the race over the singlet and nip band-aids I had planned on wearing.  Kelley happened to have a pair of non-throw-away gloves that I stole (she bought some toss-gloves at the expo), we grabbed all of the gear and got out there.  Turns out it was only a 20 minute drive from Michael's house on James Island to the finish/parking area in North Charleston; I was expecting it to be longer than that.
Self portrait in the car before the start

It was only 36 degrees when we got there, but it felt like 27 with the wind blowing.  And yes I was still running in shorts.  There was a huge line for the bus from the finish area to the starting area in downtown, I think they had a lot more people running this year than they did last year and it caused some logistical confusion.  The bus ride took about 30 minutes, and we got to talk to some nice people.  But still, we arrived 2 blocks from the starting line.  We had to stand in the line for the bus, then stand up on the bus because all of the seats were taken, then jog/walk the 2 blocks to the starting line, so we were already on our feet for about 45 minutes before ever getting to the start area. 

Turns out, the bus ride was long enough that we missed the start.  The race was chip timed, so our clock didn't start until we crossed the starting line.  But there were an awful lot of people to pass.  My plan to line up with the 3:30 pace group was completely hosed.  There was at least one other busload coming in after us, so we didn't start at the very back, but it was far enough.  There was also no pre-race excitement, nerves, jitters, hearing that gun go off, anything like that.  it was so strange.

So the immediate job at hand was to pass people.  I hit start on the garmin as soon as I crossed the line, and I knew I had to get up to my 8 min/mile pace and just try and hold it.  All of the slow people that started in the back of the pack had a four minute head start on me.  I caught them pretty quickly.

I caught the 4:45 pace group by the 1.1 mile mark.  The course was absolutely beautiful.  It started out in downtown Charleston, ran south by the battery (waterfront portion on the mainland), then all the way up King street towards North Charleston. I was watching my pace and the crowds pretty consistently.  Downtown is clean and very historic, but not very wide.  And with 3000 runners it got a bit congested at times.  Sometimes I wished they would have let the half marathon people run the second half of the course instead of the first half.  Ha! That would have made things easier. 

The good thing about an eight m/m pace is that it's easy to calculate split times in your head.  Five miles should be around 40 minutes.  I hit five miles at 41 minutes.  So I was a minute behind.  blame the traffic, hold pace, don't sweat it.  Actually, I wasn't sweating at all yet as it was still barely in the 30's.  A 3:31 is still an unbelievable time.  I caught the 4:30 pace group in mile 4 somewhere and passed them.  By mile 8 I passed the 4 hour pace group.  I know 8 miles should hit at 64 minutes in, and 10 miles should hit at 80 minutes in, but I don't remember my time when I passed the markers. That part of the course wasn't very well marked, I didn't see any mile markers or anything but the crowds were so big it's not like you were going to get lost.

I took a gel right on schedule at 4 miles, then the 8 mile aide station came at 7.6 miles and totally caught me by surprise.  So I slammed a gel and stood at the aide station to get the water to go with it, then had to start running again after getting colder.  Not fun.

Also, there was "that familiar grumbling" going on.  I was planning to poop at the mile 8 aide station before I remembered to take the gel.  Then I didn't see a port-a-let anywhere anyway, so I forgot about it and rolled on.  Just before the mile 10 aide station, I found the crapper I was looking for.  There was no line, and I saw somebody run out of there after it came into my view, so I thought I was in good standing.  Then someone else jumped in, and someone else decided to start a line.  I didn't have much of a choice but to stand there and wait it out.  Needless to say it was still in the low 30's, quite windy on this part of the course, and these guys were taking forever!  Other people suck.  I finally got in, dropped my duece, and got back to running 200 ft before the aide station.  Grabbed a couple of waters and had to re-warm up all over again.  There's no way I was only one minute off pace now.

At 12.4 miles the half and full split.  The finish line was in the Navy Shipyard in North Charleston for all the half, full, and 5k distances.  Once the course got out of downtown, we occupied a four lane road with lots of abandoned industrial buildings.  This is not a "nice" part of town.  There was no tree cover so there was lots of wind.  lots of wind.  It was not pleasant or fast or pretty.    But it was only for a few miles.  Then the half people got out of the way and we ventured out to the second half of the course. 

I know my half split should be at 1:45 for my pace, and I hit the half mark at 1:52.  So I was now 7 minutes behind.  Not that bad.  Anything in the 3:3x frame would be great.  I was also really feeling the day now.  Still so cold and so windy.  My legs had no feeling left at all.  My right knee was hurting pretty good, and a spot on my right foot was also picking up some pain.  There was certainly some muscle fatigue going on.  Nutrition and hydration were going on plan, so that was great.  But for the record, it's a bad idea to serve icewater at aide stations when it's only 36 degrees outside.  When I grab a cup of gatorade that was not iced (pleasant) and a cup of water that gives me brain freeze from drinking it too fast, that's not cool. Not cool at all.

The second half of the course got up through lots of new residential development, some parks and greenways, and lots of school grounds.  There was lots of circles and out-and-back spurs, so when I was in mile 14 I saw the leaders coming back in towards the finish.  The crowds were very thin and manageable here, so I was able to just hold my pace as best as the wind would allow.  In mile 17 I was coming back down when I saw Kelley coming up the course, so I got to see her for a quick kiss.  I was really feeling slow and beat up at that point, so I was really very glad to see her and get a little pick me up.  Guess what she told me?

I have to take a shit real bad.

Uplifting message received.  Now I was ready to slug out the last 9 miles.  ha!

While we were still in the pretty parts of the course, all of a sudden there were tons of walkers.  I knew there was a time cutoff, and anyone who missed it would be given a shortcut to get them back to the finish line.  So I thought these were the people missing the time cutoff.  Turns out it was the walkers in the 5k race, as we had caught up with their course.  I was not exactly enthusiastic about suddenly having about a hundred people walking in front of me that I had to dodge on this narrow greenway winding through a park with lots of fun turns.  Sharp turns.  I'm not going to admit to running into some of them, but I came close.

The course came out of the pretty parts and back into the industrial parts.  The Navy Shipyard was as pretty and colorful as you would expect an abandoned navy shipyard to be.  That is, not at all pretty.  There was nothing but abandoned buildings, unmaintained roads, and train tracks for miles.  I knew the 20 mile split should be at 2:40, and I hit it at 2:55 instead.  15 minutes behind is still not too bad.  Not as bad as I felt.  I knew I could knock out the last 10k under 1:05 and still break 4 hours.  How many 10k's did I run under 45 minutes this year?  surely a 1 hour 10k is within my grasp.  This gave me confidence to finish strong.

In mile 21 we ran very close to the finish line.  The last part of the course was an out and back spur on some old roads.  I twisted an ankle on some train tracks in the shipyard, that wasn't fun.  But it didn't really hurt or slow me down much either, it just took me by surprise and forced me to pay attention to my footing.  I decided then that court was in session, and I was totally going to put my speed on trial.  Here goes nothing (and I mean nothing, I was totally gassed).

Much to my surprise, the 8 m/m pace came quite easily.  I just knocked it down.  I looked at the garmin and saw 7:57, then 8:02, then 7:55, checking every few minutes.  I felt the way you are supposed to feel 23 miles into a marathon, not totally hitting the wall but I knew I was putting some work in.  Then I found out why.

Towards the end of mile 23 I hit the turnaround and started coming home to the finish line.  The 8m/m pace I hit so easily on the "out" part was thanks to a tailwind, that was now a headwind, and slowing me back down to a vomit inducing 9:30 pace when I was able to look down at the watch.  I saw 3:30 come and go, then 3:45 just watching the overall time.  That headwind didn't play games.  And it wasn't the time to play games either.  I did listen to tunes the whole way, and I heard five of Michael's songs come on.  The last one was right after the garmin rolled over to 24.1 miles, that headwind had slowed me to a walk, and the first line of the song was "I fucked up". 

poetic, no doubt.  That's why he won all of those songwriting awards - for his comedic timing.

I battled heartily with the "back" part of that last spur, made the last turn to be able to see the finish line chute, and pushed hard to get there as quickly as possible.  Stopped the garmin one second too late, apparently.  I had a nice 31 minute PR and broke four hours for the first time.

Chip time: 3:54:10, gun time: 3:57:33
8:56 per mile pace
264/850 overall (top 31%)
34/76 Male 35-39

I'll take it and I was glad to be done.  Now the fun part starts.  I have to wait on Kelley and Gina to finish.  At least I can enjoy some of the free beer and food before they get there.  I didn't expect Kelley to finish until they got closer to 5 hours.  I grabbed some water, caught my breath for a bit, found a cup of coffee (thank God) and started to pull myself together.  It only got up to about 45 degrees, so I was still freezing.  Never really broke a sweat.  But I knew I was dehydrated anyway.    Seriously, how do you run a full marathon without just being drenched?  it was that cold out there.

Of course since we got there that early, hopped in line for the bus, I drove and still had no idea where we parked.  So I spend the next hour mindlessly roaming a huge parking lot looking for ours among 3000 other cars.  Turns out I ran into a guy from Durham that has done a lot of the same races I have, so we talked for a bit.  Mind you, I have pants in the car.  That was my only focus.  Find the pants.  Find the sweatshirt. Get the camera and get back to the finish line before Kelley crosses. 

Turns out we parked behind a building that was next to the big parking lot.  No wonder I couldn't find my ride.  I did hear the race announcer call out "you guys still broke four and a half hours" and then later "and you guys still did better than 4:45" before I ever found the car.  It's still 45 degrees, and I'm still in shorts. 

Found my sweatshirt, self portrait with the medal

Found my pants.  Found my warm shirt.  Found the camera.

Finish time on the garmin with the medal.  My distance was 26.53 miles.  Notice the shorts.  The yellow is the bib on the race shirt, it was the only tech long sleeves I had.

I talked to Joe then since my phone was also still in the car.  I saw him walking at my mile 20.5, and he said he saw Kelley and Gina near that same spot a little while ago.  So Kelley was in mile 22 then and Gina was about 10 or 12 minutes behind her.  This is a surprise because Gina is typically matching my speeds.  Joe was going to walk it in with Gina so I knew I had some time.  I got in the beer line.  There was still plenty of food, but the beer line was slow so I got one and abandoned. Back out to the finish line.

Coming into the finish area

Here she is!  Bring it on home girl.

Crossing the line!  Well done!

Kelley crossed in 5:39:33 chip time, 5:42:57 gun time, 794/850 overall, 51/58 in her age group for a 13:05 pace.  Guess how she could have sped up?  Well, turns out that in mile 22 she got bored, so she called her cousin for some motivation.  Then found an aide station with muffins.  That was on the last out and back spur on the course, so she was walking back, talking on the phone while eating a muffin and getting lots of strange looks from the other (but still slower) runners.  Don't hate unless you're faster than she is - other people on the course.

She collected herself at the finish line area and we hung out waiting for Gina to come in.

Bring it on home!  Gina finished in 6:18:39

We also found our friend Charlotte and hung out with her for a while too.  Gina's husband Joe ended up walking over 11 miles trying to find us on the course, he still had blisters on his feet poor guy.  By that time, they had run out of shrimp and grits at the finishers tent, but we still grabbed a couple of extra beers each. Then they packed those away, and we sat in a few chairs before they could pack those up too.  With a 6.5 hour cutoff, most people had already abandoned.  We hung out for a bit and then headed back to Michael's, getting there about 2:30.

Me, Gina, and Kelley with the finishers medals on.

After showering, we had some chicken and dumplings that Kelley made (before driving to Charleston) as our primary recovery food.  We also got to go out to dinner to Bowen's Island seafood, which was really good. Nothings better than salty fried stuff when you're dehydrated, right?  We tried to watch the patriot's game after that, but we both fell asleep about halftime.  Slept for 12 hours each, got up and drove back to Raleigh. 

Overall, the race went through some rough parts of town so I'm not sure we'll do this one again.  The 5k results show that a sub-25 minute time would have given me an age group award, so I might give that a try next year. This weekend was fantastic, and overall the course was beautiful and I am satisfied with my results.  Good times all around.


Amber said...

I saw your Facebook status update about it and was excited for you! I am so inspired by how fast you've become! Great work to you and Kelley!

Al's CL Reviews said...

It cracks me up Kelley decided to have a muffin in the midst of the race.

Sorry it was so cold.

Congrats to both of you on your great times!

Unknown said...

I love Kelley's words of wisdom and encouragement as you passed one another.

Unknown said...

Also! I think I might just stop for a muffing and chat when I run Cowtown! Brilliant!

raulgonemobile said...

Nice work to both of you! The whole muffin thing is a riot

Mike G said...

Nice race report! I saw how windy it was going to be on the forecast and that can have such an impact on a runners pace - nice time in spite of those difficult conditions.

Wes said...

EPIC! Congratulations to you both.

it's all about pace said...

Well done all around

Alisa said...

Congrats to you both! I have no doubt that if you put your mind to another PR you'll achieve it.

Alisa said...

Congrats to you both! I have no doubt that if you put your mind to another PR you'll achieve it.

Katie said...

congratulations on your PR!

McCrae said...

Hooray!!! This post totally inspired me. I can't wait to have that first full marathon under my belt! And I really appreciate how candidly you talk about shit. Like, really.

Sophie @ threetimesf said...

Wooooooooooo! Well done!! That is a great time - definitely a PR to be proud of! :)
I love Kelley's words of encouragement've got yourself a winner there ;)

Diana said...

"dropped my deuce and away I went" it! Get it done and back on track!

joyRuN said...

HUGE freaking PR!!!!

Congrats to you & Kelley :D

JD said...

Congrats John and Kelley! Awesome for you to break 4 hours!

KC (my 140 point 6 mile journey) said...

That was probably one of the funniest race reports I have ever read. Loved it! Congrats on a well run marathon!
We have a very popular race here called the Gasparilla Distance Classic and up until 2010, they had a marathon as part of the weekend, along with a 5K, 15K, and half mary. Anyway, there was always someone along the route that would be giving out Krispy Kream Donuts. I never did get one. I was too scared to barf!

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Lol, I love that kelley talked on the phone while eating a muffin during the marathon. that's awesome!

Congrats to both of you! You did an amazing job! That start sounded like such a headache. Yikes. And BURR. I am a tough midwesterner and i will say that is cold! Especially when you are in shorts!