Wednesday, November 19, 2008
San Antonio Part 2 - The Race
Finishing my 4th Marathon - Priceless!
On race morning, Amy and I both woke up ahead of the alarm and made ready for the race. I managed to get some decent sleep, and although my voice was still pretty hoarse, I was feeling pretty good. As we got ready to load the bus, the temperature didn't seem as bad as we thought (forecast in upper 30's) so I changed out of my 3/4 length pants into shorts.
We boarded the TNT bus at 5:30 am for our 7:30 am race start. I had managed to pick up an Amphipod belt at the expo with a pocket big enough to carry my digital camera - so I had high fidelity picture taking capability for this race! I wouldn't be able to use my iRiver with my vocal limitations, but at least I could get some decent pictures.
As we made our way down the street toward the starting area, my right foot turned sideways on the side of a manhole cover and I felt a sharp pain radiate around the outside of my ankle. Darn it! I didn't need a twisted ankle now! We continued to walk while I tested it out to see how bad it was. I could walk, but it was pretty sore. This put a new wrinkle in the race. How well would this ankle hold out?
We arrived at the race start area and made our first porta potty stop. After that, we headed toward a small crowd that was gathering around some outdoor heaters. I have seen these at some outdoor restaurants for use when the temperatures were a little cool - but never for something like this. There was a fence around the heaters - perhaps this was part of the "premium package". Still, we strap hangers could gather around the outside and get a bit of the heat.
We checked our bags, made a second porta potty stop and headed for the starting area. Amy was in corral 29, I was in corral 20. The corrals would start 1 at a time at about 1:30 min apart. Doing the numbers, I figured it would be 30 - 40 min after the gun before I would cross the starting line.
I found the 5 hour pace group in my corral. I asked if they were going to walk the water stops and the pace leader said they would slow a bit but not walk - her plan was to run steady the entire way....wow. I figured I would see how long I could keep them in sight...but I had to account for the chest cold and now the ankle to determine what kind of time to really expect.
Finally, the starting gun sounded and the corrals started to be released. About 40 minutes into the race, Corral 20 started its journey. The sun was out, and although the temperatures were still cool, I shed the sweater I had - keeping the gloves on for extra warmth.
I ran with the 5 hour pace group for a little while. They were running about an 11:30 min/mi pace, which felt nice and slow for me. My heart rate was at a good level as well - upper 140's. I also tried to keep my water stop walks very short to stay with the group. Ahead of mile 5, the course started to go up hill. It was in this stretch that I finally let the 5 hour pace group go. My heart rate was rising too high to keep up with them - I knew I needed to conserve for later. Unlike MCM, I didn't think I was up to pushing myself with the cold and ankle issues.
Our uphill segment then turned to a nice downhill segment for a mile or so. I relaxed, opened my stride, and let gravity pull me down the hill. This worked well early in the race. Later, downhill segments began to hurt my ankle. In the days that followed, I also learned that up and down hill segments means sore quads...
As usual, I had the urge to use the bathroom shortly after the start. Since the porta potty lines were so long at the various water stops, I decided to try to wait it out and see if the urge went away (which it did in MCM).
We ran through downtown, by the Alamo, and near some other San Antonio landmarks. Running through downtown the crowd support was awesome - making it easy to run strong. There were plenty of bands along the race course as well - a trademark of the Rock n Roll marathon series - although as the race wore on, more of the bands seemed to be on break when we ran by. Still, there was enough going on where I did not feel like I missed my iPod at all. The bands were great entertainment where crowd support was low.
As we approached the 12 mile mark - we started passing by the lead runners who were coming from the other direction. They were already just 3-4 miles from finishing the race - about 10 miles ahead of us. It was hard to believe it would be another 2 - 2.5 hours before I would be coming back the other way.
It was around mile 13 or so when my body started to ache. My hips hurt, my neck hurt, my ankle was starting to ache - I generally just ached all over. And what made it even harder was the fact that there was so much of the race left to go!
Mother nature's call did not let up as I had hoped, and so after the half marathoners split off, I made my pit stop at the mile 15 water stop - there, the lines were nice and short. As I began to struggle with my running, I continued to walked the water stops but kept running the rest of the time. Later, I resorted to my method of running 5 minutes and walking 1 minute.
I remember seeing mile 18 and all I could think about was just walking. And it was only mile 18! I figured I would make it to mile 20 before I felt that bad. Still, I trudged on. By the time I actually reached mile 20, I was walking alot, and not sure how I was going to finish the remaining miles. It wasn't that I felt like quitting - I was just ready for it to be done. It was around then that I got the idea to eat this "elephant" one bite at a time. Perhaps I couldn't run 5 min without stopping, but I could probably run 2 min. I used this approach through the really hard miles in my long runs. I would run 2 min and then walk 1 min. As I ran the 2 min, I would start to feel like stopping about 1 min in. At that point I would tell myself "you can run just 1 more minute" and keep going. I would look at my watch again and see 30 sec left. "You can run another 30 sec, no problem." I would then reward the 2 min completion with a 1 minute walk.
This approach worked really well. I ran the 2 minutes pretty strongly and ended up passing people...passing lots of people, who had resorted to walking. I caught up to and passed folks I had seen on and off throughout the day.
Then, as a very cruel thing at the end - there was an uphill run until just before the finish. The course went up hill for about a half mile, then made a right turn with .1 miles to go. I walked part of the hill but as I approach the turn, I could see the 13 mile sign for the half marathoners, signalling just .1 miles left - I started to run. Upon making the turn I could see the finish line. My chest was heaving as I started sobbing upon seeing the finish line. I was there!!!
I made a strong sprint for the finish line, passing a few more folks before crossing - with a chip time of 5:37:49. My splits:
5 Km 36:07
6.1 Mi 1:11:48
10 Mile 1:58:33
17 Mile 3:28:28
20 Mile 4:12:39
24 Mile 5:09:09
My friend Amy, who came into this race with a sore knee and fully expecting to walk the course, crossed the finish line 2 hours later - completing her first marathon and raising money for TNT! Way to go, Amy!