Tuesday, February 18, 2014


This weekend was a blast! I got to hang out with a lot of old friends and totally blew away my own expectations for the race. I absolutely nailed a 3:46:32, and never walked for the first time ever. It was a special valentines day away without the kids, just special time with me and Kelley.

Friday afternoon we started later than expected, but still got the kids dropped off and headed down to Myrtle Beach. We made it to the expo in plenty of time.  After grabbing the gear and swag, I found the beer tent.

IPA for the win!
 The part about this weekend that I was really looking forward to was seeing so many friends. At the expo, we ran into my friend Laurie, who I haven't seen since high school! She actually graduated with my brother Michael, and was a church friend who now lives in Fayetteville with her family, and they were all at the expo too. Really cool to see her again.

After we actually got dinner from the bar upstairs from the expo. It was a really nice environment, great food, and it wasn't crowded. Pretty decently romantic spot for Valentines day! Plus Kelley got to sit in a tremendous oversized chair.
Totally interested.
We always stay at the La Quinta near the starting line, but now they have added a back road that leads to a Target. And you know that means we loaded up on cheap valentines day candy.

Saturday morning came early. 5:15 my alarm went off and I got downstairs to get some breakfast. I discovered it was pouring down very hard rain and it was really cold. Not a good combination. The race started at 6:30 with the crankchairs starting first at 6:25. I knew we were cutting it close when we saw the crankchairs cruising by as we were walking to the start line!  haha, that's a bit too close. Still, I got my good luck kiss, she went to the half marathon side of the street, and I started looking for the 3:45 pace group. They had a 3:35 and 4 hour pace group, so I figured I would get somewhere in between them.

I wasn't going to run with anything that wasn't waterproof, so no music. Figured I could just talk to people. It was 41* and raining at the start. I got to wish a "good luck" to the people I just elbowed my way through, and then we were off! Lots of people were running in trash bags. I didn't want to have to discard anything later, so I just took off. Hit start on the garmin when I got to the starting line and the rest is history.

Mile 1 was in the dark, but the rain did stop.The halfers started on the left side of the divided road, and the full marathoners on the right. Before the first turn we had to cross over the divided median, and I saw a bunch of the halfers looking at me funny. So of course I had to raise both hands in the air attack-zombie style and said "it's the attack of the full marathoners", which I thought was pretty damn funny. crickets. I got nothing out of those people. But I did split an 8:09!

Mile 2 the sun came up. Since the rain was gone and the streets were still crowded, there was plenty of challenge to puddle dodge. Split an 8:07.

At 2.75 miles, something strange happened. I got passed - by a girl. While this would not otherwise be noteworthy, it was the first time I got passed on the day. And she looked at me funny, like she was surprised to pass me. It was odd. Mile 3 split 8:17.

I could see the 3:35 pacer in there, and figured I would hang out near that guy for as long as I could since I still felt great. When Kelley checked the weather forecast the night before, every hour the chance of rain would decrease while the listed wind speed would increase. And the winds were supposed to swirl, so there would always be a headwind. fun times. I did start drafting. Here there was still plenty of people in the race who were bigger than me, so I put them between the wind and my face. While it might not have smelt particularly great, it did make things easier. And I don't think it was too noticeable.  Mile 4 in 8:12, I took my first gel at the mile 4 aide station.

Mile 5 goes out by the airport, and there is usually a band playing there. This time as I ran by I got to thank them for coming out, then they started playing Folsom Prison Blues. 8:46 thanks to the extra time to take the gel.

There is a timing mat through this little shopping village at the turn around, then back towards the airport. Mile 6 was 8:12, then mile 7 was 8:31.  As I was running back towards Ocean Blvd, I could see all of the runners still going to the shopping village. Right before we split off, I found Kelley at my mile 7.5 and got to say hi to her and blow a kiss. Very motivating to know that she was getting through the miles with a smile. Mile 8 was 8:30, and I took another gel then.

Once you get on Ocean Blvd, you stay there until about mile 21. That one road has the majority of the course, but by then it's over an hour into the race so the sun is up, there's a tailwind pushing you forward (sometimes), and you get to see the boardwalk and the ocean.  It's beautiful, and monotonous, and you just let your mind wander and watch the miles run away. Mile 9 was 8:20, then mile 10 in 8:28. Right after the mile 11 marker you start seeing signs for the halfers to split off, which they do. Once the vast majority of the people peel off and head for the finish line, you get a slight depression and a peaceful calm at the same time.  Mile 11 was 8:17. I found another guy from Raleigh who thought I was crazy, but he had a wild beard and was pretty fun to talk to. He was doing a relay, and ran from mile 6 to 10. Great talking to you Tim, ended up being some fun miles.

At the mile 12 aide station I had to stop and poop. I took another gel first, then had to wait on the port-a-let for a little bit. If you've been counting, all of these miles so far have been in the 8 minute range. Mile 12 took 8:14, then mile 13 was 9:49, thanks to about a 90 second crapper stop. It felt good to lighten the load, but I was ready to get back out there.

I hit the 13.1 halfway point at 1:50:44, not a bad split. Again, I was just feeling good and taking each mile as it came to me without any real feeling of push or elevated heart  rate. Pretty crazy indeed.

The second half of the course goes up into North Myrtle Beach. The starting line is on 21st ave, and we finally turn off of Ocean Blvd somewhere around 68th st, if that gives you a frame of reference for how far into North MB we get. Now, start by understanding that there is nothing interesting about North Myrtle, nothing happens there, it's just a few small hotels and lots of beachfront houses. I don't remember much about these miles, but I'm not sure if that's because they are boring, or mindless, or just all looked exactly the same. They were all uphill, however. Which I thought was odd.

I had no expectations to negative split this course but you can certainly see my interest level wain in these miles.
Mile 14: 8:22,
mile 15: 8:38,
mile 16: 8:36 (took another gel),
mile 17: 8:19 (ok must have had a tailwind),
mile 18: 8:44,
mile 19: 8:29,
mile 20: 8:34 and another gel

And that was the most interesting part of North Myrtle. Consistent, plain, meets expectations.

Mile 21 went in 8:58, that's where the course turned and we started running uphill into a stiff headwind again. Heading back to the start/finish line there's a couple of out-and-back spurs to keep the competition in sight. I knew the aide stations at miles 16 and 22 had gels provided on the course, so I took those. Mile 22 took 8:50.

My personal best distance record was 21 miles without walking. So this time I really wanted to get that gel at the mile 22 aide station without having to take a walk break, and I did! So excited to finally break through that one. And I still felt like I didn't need to walk after that, so I figured I'd shoot for 23. Mile 23 took 9:23, but I didn't walk through it. Finally, the first mile over 9 minutes besides the poopy mile 12. This time it was fatigue that slowed me down. My quads were burning. My ass was on fire. Calves were totally starting to melt down. But I was not dehydrated, so I didn't hit the wall at mile 23 like I usually do.

Mile 24 was 8:47, and this might be the biggest surprise. Again, no walking, extending that PDR. To turn in a mile in the 8's that late in a marathon is insane. Never thought I would do that. Mile 25 took 9:19, that's more like what I was expecting. Actually, these really late miles for me are usually in the 10 to 13 minute range, so this whole thing was uncharted territory. And I still wasn't walking. Just trying to maintain good running form. I didn't have to go fast, just had to keep going. I think it was around mile 20 or 22 when I felt confident about my ability to break 4 hours.  But mile 26 was 9:09, and that's out of this world crazy.  I was finally back at Broadway cruising up towards 21st ave again. When I saw that finishing chute I knew it was real.

Not only was I going to break 4 hours (goal!) and set a PR that I didn't expect to get, I was going to smash that PR and might actually get under 3:50, which would also surpass most of my friend's marathon PR's.  And I never had to walk. That was totally unexpected and incredible. I never actually believed that I could run the entire length of a marathon without walking or falling apart in the end. insane.

I came through the finish line on fire and hit stop on the garmin. I got my medal, then looked at the garmin. When I read it, I screamed it. I read it again out (and very) loud - THREE FORTY SIX THIRTY FIVE YEEEEEAAAAAAHHHHHHHH shouted as loud as I could, and the announcer guy even said how happy we apparently were to finally be finished running 26.2 miles. He was right.  I'm not a 3:46 marathoner. I'm maybe one of the typical middle/rear middle of the pack guys who's going to struggle and train hard and maybe break 4 hours once. My old PR was 3:56 in Charleston marathon 2012, and I never actually expected to break 4 hours again. I'm 38, way too old to get any faster. But I just did, and by around 10 minutes. that's absurd. No way I would have predicted that.

As soon as I finished screaming for pure joy, Kelley was right there. She ran the half in 2:33, after only getting in 2 training runs since early december thanks to a piriformis problem. She had enough time to go back to the hotel, get some warm clothes, and make it back down in time.

Right before the scream

and right after!
As soon as I started making my way out of the finishers chute, I got caught by my good friend from college Meredith. Haven't been able to hug that neck for maybe 18 years (she graduated before me) and this, right now, is the time when I run into her? I still haven't come down from the endorphins, still jacked up high and crying over my time and that's when I have to introduce Kelley and meet her friend too. Not exactly my most photogenic moment. Loved getting to see her, but that was crap timing. We need to catch up when I can put together two coherent thoughts.

Finally, I've calmed down enough to take in some fluids and food, and process what just happened.

wow.  just wow. that was totally unexpected.

So was this!

Kelley captioned this "we found an elephant at the finish line of the marathon", and I started making jokes about how I know I've put on a little weight but that's just cruel. ha! The fence here is just to keep the beer drinkers in, not the elephants out.  Interesting fact, did you know elephants eat Fruit Loops? The trainer guy would throw fruit loops and peppermint candy on the ground and the animal would pick them up with his trunk and eat it.

Afterward we got enough fluids and walked around a bit, it was time to head back to the hotel. The elephant followed us out, and we got a few more pics.

No fence or anything, we're just walking down the street when the beast comes up behind us


That's a swinging tale
Have you ever wanted to Stranger Rodeo an elephant? I was seriously tempted to grab hold of that tail and see how long I can hang on. Maybe if I hadn't just finished a marathon. At the time, the elephant was walking much faster than I was. Opportunity lost.

What made this marathon different?
I've been trying to figure out why I was able to hang on and suffer longer this time than ever before. Maintaining good form is key, yes. As is the mental capacity to keep pushing out miles when your legs are on fire and you want to stop. But I really  think it's got to be the plants!

My fitness overall is still elevated from the B2B full iron distance in October, yes. that takes a long time to calm down. But we did the Paradigm Diet challenge in December, and those habits stuck around. We still eat a mostly vegan diet, and it's become easy to know when my weight is up a few pounds or I just feel heavy from eating too much sodium or meat. And we now know how to make that stuff all go away within a couple of days. I finished the Challenge at 175 lbs, 18% bodyfat - that was in December - and I hit the starting line - in February - at 175 lbs, 18% bodyfat. This was done on purpose. I know when I'm not properly hydrated and need to make a smoothie for breakfast the next day. I know when we need to make some Colon Blow for dinner to push some of that weekend meat through the system.  Overall I feel better, have more energy, and look younger than I did before thanksgiving.

When this becomes a long term habit, the long term effect leads to increased endurance and greater overall fitness. The extent of this was totally unexpected. I mean just 4 months ago I did the Ironman marathon almost an hour slower! (4:37 run split) Nobody is going to claim they can take an hour off of their marathon time in 4 months. It's got to be the plants.

The Paradigm Diet - the basis of our fueling
Starting the Paradigm Detox Day 1
Finishing the Paradigm Detox with a 5k PR

What Else did we do?
After getting all cleaned up, we hit the Planet Hollywood for lunch, and it was quite overrated. Then we hit the outlet stores for some shopping. I got some Kenenth Cole dress shoes that are beautiful (yes I'm secure enough in my masculinity to admit that). Then we got to meet up with the Boys!

Dean, Pat, and Jon are fraternity brothers from college. Pat ran the half, as did all of their wives. I was looking for these people while I was on the course, and they were looking for me. We all get together in the spring for a guy's weekend of heavy drinking, there's about 10 of us that usually jump in. But today we all got to hang out for a couple of beers before dinner, then had a really nice meal together. We all left the kids at home, so this was really special and fun. Like I said, on this trip, getting to see old friends and spend time alone with Kelley was just as important as running the race.

Sunday morning we cleaned up, grabbed breakfast and hit the road back to Raleigh. The whole weekend was fun, social, and fast. The only thing I could have asked for was more of the same. Kelley got to see some people that I didn't. I love being plant-powered, glad I pulled out such a strong race. And I'm grateful for a quick recovery too.

Now let's turn it up and hit the trails! March 1st (yes 2 weeks away) is the Umstead Trail Marathon. Nothing like 26.2 in the woods, this is going to be fun. It's another 1 star Marathon Maniacs streak!


Hope you guess my name said...

Way to go babe, let's do it all again next year! Whadaya say?

CautiouslyAudacious said...

Wow! Way to go!!!! That is an amazing finish! Looks like you guys had fun too!

carrie said...

Congratulations! That is flipping awesome!

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Congrats on your awesome PR! You should be so proud of yourself. That is cool that clean eating has made such a big difference for you. You are definitely look lean and trim these days!

Tea said...

Congrats! What a huge PR!

Btw: I'm 9 years older than you and still getting faster.

Amber @ A Little Pink in the Cornfields said...

Wow that is so awesome!!! I used to live in Myrtle Beach so this was very fun for me to read!! I would love to run a race there sometime!!
Congrats again!!!

Kyria @ Travel Spot said...

Great job! Congrats! We were thinking of you as we drove to Asheville. That is an awesome PR!

Badgergirl said...

Congrats on the fantastic race, John!