Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Winding Down

For the last two weeks, I have done a whole lotta nuthing, including this blog.  That’s to be expected right?  You really need to take some time to let yourself go at the end of a long hard year.

This was not the down year I was looking for…

The vast majority of my running over the last two weeks has been soccer related, and that’s about all my legs have been able to handle.  I officiated six games the day after my marathon.  I know!  Crazy, right?  Not to worry though.  It was the little guys and gals.  Just enough running to make me feel absolutely shellacked at the end of the day.

The weekend after that, I officiated three adult matches, one of which was my assessment match which is required to maintain my grade for next year.  I passed.  First try, which is always a good thing.

Thanksgiving rolls around, and I find myself knee deep in my favorite beverage:  beer.  Between that, the turkey, and the PIE, I’ve already manage to put five pounds back on this sleek physique.  The day after  Thanksgiving, I left at the butt crack of dawn to drive to Mobile to visit with my father.  They were having a birthday celebration for him on Friday, then Saturday, the children gathered in his hospital room for the Iron Bowl.

My youngest sibling brought the boiled peanuts and beer in a cooler.  Unfortunately, I was the one chosen to run out at half time and restock.  When I got out of the car in the parking lot, I realized that carrying beer and a bag of ice into a hospital probably didn’t look very good.  The good news was that I snuck in the basement door and made it almost all the way to my Dad’s room before the nurse popped out of his room and saw me.  LOL!!  She said not a word.

That night, Mee-Maw said she couldn’t believe they let us drink beer in Paw-Paw’s room, and my response:  We didn’t ask.  We were quiet, well behaved, kept it in the room, and didn’t give a drop to Paw-Paw, and we cleaned up before we left.

Before the Iron Bowl on Saturday, I did manage to get out and run 5 miles with my sister.  It was so nice in Mobile.  It’s a perfect time of year.  Kelly told me she wouldn’t normally run that fast, and I was thinking that was the pace she wanted :-)

Finally, last night, I got my second official run in at the gym on the treadmill.  I did a mile, then switched into my Vibrams, ran a half mile, then back into my shoes for the remainder of my four miles.  Afterwards, I lifted weights and did a bit of rowing for half an hour.  I’m only 110 miles from having an official 1000 mile year.  I know with all the officiating I’ve done, my unofficial mileage is way over that, but I’m all about the deets.  I’m pretty sure I’m going to let this one go though!  HA!

In looking back at 2011, it was not quite the “down year” I had planned.  Training for and running a marathon is hard work.  One thing I am proud of though, I set six PRs in 2011, and this after suffering a dry spell for almost 20 months.

I hope you all have a great December, happy holidays, and ring in the new year with some fun and excitement!  I’ll be seeing ya around.

Wes

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dream it. Believe it. Live it.

A Chickamauga Marathon Race Report

The skies were clear.  The sun shined bright on the field, somewhat offsetting the chill of the cold Saturday morning.  Twenty-two eleven and twelve year old combatants waged battle on the hundred yard field, repeating a scene held on tens of thousands of fields all across America.  Football.

The image in my mind is still clear as day.  I was the quarterback on what would soon be a championship team.  The only championship team I have ever been on.  I take took the snap and dropped back deep in the pocket between my two tailbacks.  It was at this moment that time slowed to a crawl.  The front line is blocking, protecting their QB.  On my right, the defensive tackle breaks away from my linesman and comes running up the middle of the pocket.  I’m about to get crushed.  I waited until the last possible second to release the ball, angling it high up and throwing it as far as I could, knowing the wind was going to push it further down the field.  As soon as I released the ball, a shoulder pad and helmet is inserted into my arm pit, and I’m buried under a kid one and a half times my size.

My speedy wing-back caught that pass.  He scored a touch down.  You can’t make this stuff up.  You have to live it.  Experience it.  Embrace it.  This is why I race.

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Dee Dee and I arrived at the Chickamauga Battlefield before dawn’s early light.  If you know your history, Chickamauga was a solid victory for the Confederacy, shortly before getting their butts handed to them in Chattanooga.  I did the 10 mile race here several years ago, and I’ve always wanted to come back and race the marathon.

Unfortunately for me, I didn’t time it very well.  We were stuck in traffic thirty minutes before packet pickup was supposed to end, and I had no idea how far we were backed up.  Fortunately for me, it three-tenths of a mile or so.  I left Dee Dee in the car and hustled off to packet pick up.  It was like thirty something degrees out.  No use starting the freezing process early!

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All my worrying, of course, was for not.  I grabbed my packet and headed for the port-o-potties.  There was no line there.  I’ve just about got this GI thing figured out.  This was going to be my third race with no GI issues what so ever.  The sky was starting to lighten, but if anything, that made it even more difficult to track Dee Dee down.  I looked around for her before heading back to the tent.  Lucky for me, she has better eyes than I do.  I heard her call my name.  Together, we went back to the tent to get the race belt ready and stay warm.

About fifteen minutes before the race start, I went outside to run a bit and get warmed up.   The cold made my feet hurt, and I felt something akin to arthritis in the big toe on my right foot.  While walking back to the start area, the RD came over the PA and announced that the race would be delayed fifteen minutes to allow the stragglers to get in.   Dee Dee and I immediately headed back to the car to keep warm.  No more than five minutes later (or so), she came back on again and said everybody had arrived.  I thought that the race would get started on time, but evidently the delay was still in effect.

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I kissed Dee Dee good bye and found a place in the middle of the street, slightly ahead of the 4 hour pace group.  The McMillan Pace calculator suggested I try a 8:45 per mile pace for the marathon.  I was thinking closer to 9, but either way, it was slightly ahead of a 9:09 sub-4 pace.  I saw a friend of mine, Nat, who was their with her youngest child, cheering on another friend going sub-4.  After she snapped my picture, we went back to waiting.  Nat’s friend Chris grabbed me and said “hi”, and we made small talk while we waited.

The RD came over the loudspeaker and announced the wheel chair division was going to start.  She explained that she was going to start their race with a horn, but when the horn sounded, the cannon went off right behind it. Lucky for them, none of the runners started running.  We waited about five minutes to both give the wheel chair racers a head start and to reload the cannon.  After the national anthem, the cannon went off with a boom, and we the race got under way.

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The race started kinda funny.  We ran in a big circle around the Museum.  We actually ran past the place I started at before making a right out onto the race course.  We ran a short distance down a road before making a left onto the battlefield proper.  This stretch of the race was rolling, but mostly down hill.  It was nice, but not conducive to holding pace.  My Garmin was reading an 8:35 pace, and I let my legs run freely.

Almost immediately, my nose had started to run from the cold.  Not only did this make it hard to breath, but as I cleared my throat and spit out the gunk, I was losing quite a bit of fluid.  A mile or so into the race, I found myself getting thirsty.  I should have definitely drank more before the race.  The race description had said that there would be aid stations every 1.5-2 miles, and they were, once you reached the battlefield.  The first aid stations was more than 4 miles away (I believe), and that’s just not a good way to start the race.

To top it off, the 4 hour pacers passed me around mile 3, even though I had registered an 8:35 first mile, and several 8:45 miles before then.  That kinda pissed me off.  I convinced myself to ignore them and stick to my paces.  At this point, the Garmin was beeping off the miles about 20 yards in front of the signs.  I was OK with that, as long as it was consistent.  I passed the pacers at the first aide station and discarded my t-shirt.  I probably wore it too long and sweated quite a bit as a result.

Miles 5 through 8 were pretty fast, and I was steady holding a sub-8:40 pace.  I came up on the main road through the middle of the park, and I heard  Dee Dee yell at me from the middle of the field.  She was taking pictures near the cannons.  I waved at her.  Nat was standing up by the road, and she screamed at me as well.  Nat’s enthusiasm was infectious!

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Running along the left side of the park, we had a long gradual up hill climb.  This was followed by one short steep hill near the half way point.  One of the runner’s pointed out a doe tramping through the woods.  As I passed the half marathon point, I saw a whole heard of does crossing the battlefield on the left.  I believed the does thought us silly to be running on the road, and I laughed to myself. 

At this point, I’m holding my pace.  I 3-4 minutes under a sub-4 performance.  I had seen Dee Dee again around the 11-ish to 12 mile mark, and I had thrown here my gloves.  My legs were starting to tire, and I could feel my left hamstring sending me cramping signals.  I was not concerned at all.  I knew how to run without cramping, and I held my pace.

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Miles 16 to 18 were a struggle.  I easily convinced myself that if I could hold a 9 minute pace, I would be happy, and I did.  After mile 18, the wheels came off.  I didn’t cramp.  I don’t believe that I hit the wall.  I had been pretty religious about taking in gels and drinking up to this point.   My legs, ankles, and feet just hurt like Hell.  By the end of mile 19, it became apparent that I was defeated, and with that, my hopes of going sub-4 went out the window.

Enter the slogfest.  The 4 hour pace group passed me around mile 23.  I tried to run with them for a bit.  The effort wasn’t serious.  I began to pick out spots on the route.  I would run to that route and then walk again, until I could pluck up the strength to run again. We made a left back onto the road that would take us to the finish.  Near the point where it exited the woods, a young lady, already finished, stood giving us all encouragement.  I gave her a genuine smile of appreciation.  The race route took us through what looked like a parking lot for a medical center before dropping us off on the hill above the finish line.  A family was sitting out in their yard, cheering on the runners.  They got a thumbs up.

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Running beneath the houses along the back stretch, I heard Dee Dee yell my name.  Thank God it was a downhill to the finish.  I picked up a new friend, Mark, who had hurt his toe.  Together, we ran it into the finish.  I hammed it up a bit for the finish photo, but the smile on my face was not a fake.  I raised my arm in victory, and crossed the finish line with a 4:16:53 showing on the clock (4:16:30 chip time).

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Sir, may I take your timing chip, a sweet young girl asked?  Sure, I said, as I doubled over in pain.  Are you alright sir?  I’m going to be fine, I replied. Thank you.

I grabbed my medal and headed for the athlete area.  Dee Dee met up with me a long the way.  I flopped down on my back next to a table and rested my feet up in the air, using the table for support.  I stayed there for four, maybe five minutes, closing my eyes, waiting for the throbbing to ease.  I probably could have stayed there for an hour, but thirst and hunger took over.  I grabbed a bottle of water before heading to the food tent.  THEY HAD BANANA PUDDING.  It was dewiscious.  That and the cold pizza.

Dee Dee went with me back to the car to change.  I put on my race shirt and some jeans I had brought.  We headed back over to the race area for a bit before departing.  I’m so glad Dee Dee took the day off to come with me.  I’m not sure I would have made it home on my own.  With that, my fifth marathon is in the books (third stand alone).

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Now, we must deal with the hard facts of this race.  I did not meet my goal of going sub-4.  I blame it on three things:

  1. not training properly
  2. going to hard at the Silver Comet Half Marathon
  3. improper pacing at the start of the marathon.

All of these things are, of course, fixable.  Am I happy with my result?  Of course!!  But let’s be realistic.  It’s not so much the 57 minute PR.  We all knew that I was going to PR this race.  Rather, its more like a reset.  I needed to put a “realistic” number next to the “Marathon” on my personal records page.  That PR will be much harder to beat, and that itself will be more motivation.  Also, I NEED to feel like I have mastered the marathon distance, like I have the half marathon.  I would rather run a 4:16 marathon with a consistent per mile pace than fade at the end.

That ends my 2011.  I think Dee Dee and I are going to do a Turkey Trot, but nothing else.  I haven’t decided what I’m going to do next year.  Going sub-6 at Augusta is appealing, but so is doing nothing but sprints.  We shall see.  I have friends who have tentatively scheduled Chickamauga for next year.  If they come to Georgia, I’ll definitely be heading back to do that race again.

Thank you all again for your support!  I’ll be around.

Wes

Friday, November 11, 2011

Marathon Eve

It’s been a really really messed up week…  errr I mean a really really long time since I’ve run a stand alone marathon.  That would have been the Disney Marathon in January of 2008.  Back in April-ish or May, I decided to cut my triathlon season off in July and return to the Marathon.  With a PR over 5 hours, it seemed the right thing to do.  That number is just out of whack!  We need to set it straight, ya know?

Tuesday night, I was back on the track during my son’s soccer practice.  The Silver Comet Half Marathon took a lot out of me, and I’ve been struggling to recover.  While my muscles have come around OK, my knees and my ankles have been slow to recover.  The training plan called for a tempo workout, and I wasn’t sure I had a tempo run in me.  About the time I was set to get started, my son’s soccer team came prancing around the track.  The competitive juices fired up, and I took off after them.  Well, suffice to say, they were running a bit fast.  However, the 8:34 first mile I turned in convinced me I did have a tempo run in my legs, and so I did my three miles at an 8:30 pace (8:34, 8:20, 8:00), and finished up my run with two 10 minute miles.

All day Wednesday, I was debating on whether or not to run at all.  The soreness was back.  I finally decided to go hit up the treadmill for my five miler on a softer surface.  Unfortunately for me, I did not prepare well.  I had nothing to drink since coffee at noon, and I was quickly dehydrated.  I cut the run short at 4 miles and called it a day.

Which brings us to today…

It was rather fortuitous that I had the day off today to relax (Veteran’s Day).  After dropping Matthew off at school, I stopped at the Kroger to pick up 8 gels.  Funny, I should have checked to see if my belt would hold eight gels before I got started.  Oh well, I may have to run the first thirty minutes with a gel or two in my hands.  No worries.  All my gear is laid out. I’m ready to go.

For those of you on Facebook, I’ll try to get get Teh Bug to post my progress on my profile.  For everybody else, I’ll see you on Sunday or Monday!

Have a great weekend!

Wes

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Where The Impossible Happens

An Ironman Florida 2011 Spectathlete Report

Many months ago, I had casually mentioned to Dee Dee that I would like to go down to Panama City Beach to watch the Ironman this year.  Unfortunately for us, it would take a bit of doing.  I would have to get off work.  Somebody would need to watch Matthew and get him to and from his soccer match.

As late as Thursday, we weren’t sure if we would be able to go.  The weekend plans were completed, but Matthew had yet to find a ride home from school on Friday.  I’m fairly easy going.  I would have cancelled the entire trip in order to pick my son up from school.  He texted me Thursday evening that he had found not one ride, but one and a back up.  Everything came together just fine.

Friday morning, we dropped Matthew off at school and drove down to Panama City Beach.  I looked for the signs and course markings along Highway 231, but I didn’t see any.  I wondered if they had a different routine this year (I later found out the bike course had changed).  We checked into my Dad’s place at Venture Out before heading to Walmart to pick up a few necessities.  Then, it was off to the Expo to meet up with CJ and Murtha.

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We had a great time meeting up with old friends for the first time, and I got to meet John’s lovely wife, Kelley.  Dee Dee and I did browse the expo for a bit.  Being and Ironman finisher, it was totally legit for me to buy sumfin.  Unfortunately, the only thing I liked they didn’t have in my size.  Dee Dee, however, managed to snag a pink and white running technical shirt.  I don’t under stand how these things happen.

At 4 PM, we went to the pagoda behind the Boardwalk for a blogger meet up.  There, we met old and new blogger friends, including:  CJ, Murtha, Colleen, and Laura, amongst others!

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After the blogger meet up, I felt the rumbling in my stomach.  Dee Dee and I decided to beat the crowds and get an early dinner.  This is where being on Eastern time has its advantages.  We went to Pinapple Willies, located just down the boardwalk from the race site.  We got there plenty early and sat down right away.  I was really wanting to eat on “the cheap” this trip, but I gave in and ordered on seafood meal for myself.  The waiter asked me if I was really hungry (I think he believed I was racing).  I laughed and said,  “No, and please leave off the potatoes”.

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Good thing too…  That was one huge plate of food.  I ate almost all of the seafood and left some of the vegetables and the bread on my plate.  I was stuffed!  After dinner, we returned to Venture Out for the night.  I got caught up Kitchen Nightmares and didn’t get out for my run until 8 PM central time.  My legs were still feeling pretty sore from my race the previous Saturday.  I opted to take it easy and cut the run to four miles from five.

Saturday morning came, and we got up early.  Again, being on Eastern time is a small advantage.  We took off for the Walmart and found a spot to park in the crowded lot.  We opted not to take the bus and walked the short distance to the race site.  It was just beginning to get light when we arrived on the beach.

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The swim start was bustling with activity.  Athletes in wet suits were every where.  Spectators and family were mixed in as well.  I looked around for my peeps, but unfortunately, I couldn’t find them.  We went down to the left of the race start and found a place to stand.  While we were waiting, Murtha found us.

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We chatted with him for a few minutes before he had to take off and get into the swim corral.  At 6:50 AM, the cannon sounded for the pros.  Shortly after that, the cannon went off for the age groupers, and Ironman Florida 2011 got under way.

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Dee Dee and I tried to keep an eye out for CJ and Murtha as they came through for their first loop, but we just weren’t sure we saw them.  We finally gave up and thought it best that we go find a good spot at the swim finish.  As more and more people finished the swim, Dee Dee and I moved up to the front.

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This is not necessarily a great pic, but when the finish chute was empty, you could see the swimmers in the background stacked up like huge birds.  It.were.awesome.  CJ was the first one to come in under the arches.

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and about three minutes later, Murtha came tearing through:

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I was thinking, GOOD!  I could get around to the bike exit and see them both take off.  We hustled around to the other side of transition and starting walking back to the car, keeping an eye out for our friends.  We saw Murtha come through.  Unfortunately, we never did get to see CJ.  I think he was taking his time in transition, which is always a good thing for your first Ironman!

Dee Dee and I decided to head out on the bike course and cheer on our friends, but first, WAFFLE HOUSE!  There’s one a bit further down the beach towards St. Andrew’s State Park, and we were lucky enough to score a table with no waiting.  After breakfast, we took off for the bike course.

Your’s truly didn’t look at the new bike route properly.  I thought the race course crossed over 231.  Unfortunately, it was crossing over County Highway 2031.  We headed up Highway 77 past Lynn Haven, only to arrive at the bike route in a huge back up.  This was not where we wanted to be, so I jumped the median and headed back south.  We headed east to 231 before turning north.  After what seemed like a really long time, I saw another highway I had noticed on the map, Highway 388 and turned down that road.  There was a flashing sign up warning motorists about the race.  Quite by accident, we came up on the bike turn around.  This was not where I wanted to be, but it would have to do.

We didn’t have to wait too long before Murtha came through, and we had company cheering on the athletes.

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Andy’s got that smug smile.  I’m GETTIN'ER DONE!!  LOL!!  We waited about another 15-20 minutes for CJ to come through.  I said something stupid like “pick it up”, and I could tell that CJ was not happy.  He was not a happy camper on the bike this day!

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We hung around for another 15 to 20 minutes after that ringing cowbell and cheering on the athletes before we headed back to Venture Out.  I fired up the computer to keep tabs on my peeps.  I knew it was windy, but I was starting to get concerned when their 95 mile cut off failed to appear.  We finally got tired of waiting.  I figured it was some kind of technical glitch.  We headed down to the front of Venture Out and set up our lawn chairs on the run route.

I have no idea how long we spent there.  We must have rang the cowbells for something like two ours.  I noticed a friend of mine there cheering on more of his friends, and I got to catch up with him on how things were going.  Andy was the first one to come through on the run.

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He wasn’t feeling very well, and it showed, despite the outward appearances.  I walked with him for a bit, and while I could tell he appreciated it, he was totally focused on getting the job done.  Shortly after that, and a lot sooner than I anticipated, CJ came tearing through.

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I don’t know if you are familiar with CJ, but he has lost a ton of weight and turned into quite the runner.  He looked strong and refreshed, which was a relief to me after waiting for him to get off the bike.  Once our friends passed through, we hung out for a bit more before the cold wind urged us back inside.  We ordered a pizza, and while we waited for it to be delivered, we caught a nap.  The pizza arrived late, and somewhat cold.  The driver had been delayed by the Ironman.  Still, it was good enough to us, and Dee Dee and I had a few slices while we watched the start of the Alabama-LSU game.

At this point, Dee Dee asked if I wanted to go the finish line to wait for CJ and Murtha, and I opted not to go.  I wanted to go to the finish line around 10 PM and hang out till midnight.  Hanging out for four hours was not appealing to me.  I wasn’t worried about Murtha and CJ.  They finished the race in fine style.  Dee Dee and I both watched them cross the finish line on the laptop.

At 10 PM, Dee Dee and I drove  to the Alvin’s Island near the race finish and parked.  We walked to the finish line and found an empty spot in the bleachers.  As midnight approached, the crowd got bigger and the electricity began to build.  With one hour left, they cranked up the dance music and the crowd got jiggy with it.  Each runner that came through the chute was greeted with vigorous enthusiasm.  Some of it was down right deafening.  The last runner came through the chute with a couple of minutes left, and that ended Ironman Florida 2011.  No last minute dashes for the finish line.

My pillow never felt so good!  I had a blast.  I’ve never been able to back to an Ironman finish line after my races.  I’ve just been exhausted.  This was a special treat for me, and I can’t thank Dee Dee and my friends who raced too much for putting on such a fine show.

I slept relatively well Saturday night.  I woke up around 9 AM eastern time, but with being on Central Time and daylight savings time kicking in, it was more like 7 AM.  I needed to run 12 miles, but there was no way I was going to give that a go without eating breakfast.  I woke Dee Dee up and we went back to the Waffle House.  After eating, I ran around the lagoon then back down the board walk where all the crazies were standing in line to sign up for IM Florida 2012.  After taking a shower and cleaning up, it was time to head home.  With children still in the house, Dee Dee and I have “sponsibilities”.

and that my friends, wraps up an entirely different aspect of this thing called:  triathlon.

Wes

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

But for the Grace of God

A Silver Comet Half Marathon Race Report

After my last long run on Tuesday, this race kind of snuck up on me.  I ran the seven mile easy run scheduled for Thursday, but opted to rest on Friday.  No use pushing it.  I checked the weather one last time before laying all my gear out.  It was supposed to be forty at the race start, and not much more than that by the time I hoped to be finished.

Forty degree weather calls for long sleeves from start to finish.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being cold.  This race was a solo affair for me.  There would be nobody there that could grab a jacket for me.  I dug through my old white t-shirts, and settled on one that was good enough to donate to charity.  I laid out my shorts, shirt, compression sleeves, technical shirt, socks, race belt, and running belt, and called it a night.

Dee Dee’s alarm goes off at 4:20 AM, and she usually kisses me good bye and turns on my alarm around 5 AM.  I’ve gotten into the habit of getting up early early for races so I don’t have to feel rushed.  I got right up out of bed as she was leaving and felt strong and refreshed.   I had slept pretty good.  I ate my breakfast, drank some coffee, and dallied a little too long before slipping out the front door.  I drive to the Silver Comet Trail all the time and was pretty confident that I would get to where I needed to be in plenty of time.

There were two parking spots listed in the pre-race email:  the race start (Mable House) and the middles school.  The middle school was closer to the race finish (start and finish were in two separate places).  I opted to park at the middle school.  I needed to leave in somewhat of a hurry to get back home and take my son to his game.

My legs, especially my ankles, were a little sore from my 20-miler on Tuesday.  I knew a good warm up was imperative.  I jogged most of the half mile to the Mable House.  A large crowd had already gathered.  It took me all of two minutes to get my race bib and get in line for the port-o-potties.  The lines were moving fairly fast, and by the time I was done, it was still 35 to 45 minutes before the race start.  I found a spot near the buses and used the crowd/buses to block the wind and stay warm.  I scanned the crowds for familiar faces but didn’t see anybody I knew.

Around 7:35, the buses moved out with the folks doing the fun run.  The runners moved into that area.  They asked us to line up behind the pace signs, and I chose the nine minute mile sign.  The wind started to pick up a bit.  I kept my joints loose with some dynamic stretches, but nothing too heavy.  We were supposed to go off at 7:45 AM, but as the clock ticked by, we were still standing there.  The next thing you know, the crowd began to move.  We walked down the side street and out onto Floyd Road.  There was only one other pace group in front of me, the eight minute or less milers.  I looked at the cars stopped in the street and wondered what they thought.  I looked behind me and admired the 2000 or so people filing their way down onto Floyd Road.

Up ahead, I could see the ladder, and I heard a voice.  I wasn’t sure what the voice was saying.  Without any fanfare, the race started, how I don’t know, and the crowd started moving forward.  I crossed the start line to a chorus of beeps and pressed the button on my Garmin.

My biggest challenge with this particular engagement was setting my goals.  I have a really hard time knowing how hard I should and should not go, especially since I had trained right up to the race.  I had settled on a goal of a 9 minute per mile pace, and with that thought in mind, I took off down Floyd Road towards the Silver Comet Trail. 

I used the rolling undulation of the first mile or so to complete my warm up.  A good portion of it was downhill, I wasn’t really all that surprised that my pace came in around 8:45.  I thought that I might slow down a bit, but my body was having none of it.  The second mile is a short downhill to the Silver Comet Trail, then a left and out along a flat-ish part of the trail.  I threw my t-shirt onto the grass where the road meets the trail head.  I decided to settle into what I felt was a comfortable pace and just see how long I could hold it.

Somewhere towards the end of mile 3, I look down at my Garmin see that I’m running an 8:10-ish per mile pace, and I wasn’t even struggling very hard.  Sure, for the most part the first half of the race is mostly downhill, but I was ecstatic.  If I could hold that pace, I might PR.  I might come in under an hour fifty.  In a worse case scenario, I could ease up on the way back if my legs weren’t “feeling it” and fall back onto my original plan.

In the back of my mind, I wondered how far out this race went.  The finish line was located at the trailhead near Floyd Road, almost two miles from the start.  That meant, we had to go out about 5.5 miles on the trail before turning around.  Sure enough, we reached a long gradual uphill section of the trail that I was very familiar with from riding my bike.  I kept an eye on my Garmin and held my pace steady.  More and more people were coming back towards me now.  Finally, I reached the turn around at about the seven and a half mil mark.  If I remember correctly, the race volunteer had put a cone on the trail to mark the spot.  I thought that was kind of funny.

It was about this time that I took my first Power Gel.  I had been pretty consistent about taking in water and Gatorade.  I needed to take my gloves off to get my pouch open, and I opted to leave my gloves off for the rest of the race.  I was really starting to feel it now, but I kept my turn over high, and it paid off on the pace clock.  Miles 8, 9, and 10 came in at 8:09, 8:11, and 8:12 respectively.  I knew miles 10, 11, and 12 were mostly up hill, with the biggest hill of the day around mile 12, before leveling out into the finish at the Floyd Road trail head.

Somehow, I managed to hold my pace, although I did give a little bit back on the hill.  Once I leveled out, I hit the 12 mile market and wanted to make mile 13 the fastest of the day.  I gave it a valiant effort, but came up a couple of seconds short.  Once you cross over that last street, you can see the finish line up ahead.  As I drew nearer, I saw a 1:47:xx on the clock, and I wondered if I could make it to the finish line before 1:50:00.  I gave that last little bit everything I had, and I surprised myself, crossing the line in 1:48:51 (actual chip time:  1:48:58).

I grabbed a medal from a helpful volunteer and headed off to find my race shirt and some food.  I ran into my speedy peep, Christina, who came in first in her age group.  I spent a few minutes chatting with Christina before heading out to pick up Matthew.

Well, what can I say about this race.  I surprised myself.  My average pace, my HALF MARATHON pace was 8:18 per mile.  That used to be the 5K pace that made me just suffer, horribly.  The PR is nice as well, but the digit I’m really proud of is the 88 steps per minute average cadence (one foot), moving me closer to an ideal cadence of 180.  There is always room for improvement.

This great result is a huge confidence boost going into my marathon in a couple of weeks.  I’m off to sunny Florida to watch the Ironman, then its into the home stretch for the Chickamauga Marathon.

Happy hump day, y’all!

Wes