Random Rantings and Ravings from a Slow-Poke Runner in the Heart of the South. (A Weeekly (sort of) Blog about running and just about anything else)

Monday, September 04, 2006

14.2 Miler Race Report

I started my taper a little earlier than planned for this weekend’s Tupelo 14.2-mile race. I discovered a couple of weeks ago that I wasn’t still out of the woods on the ankle. After an 8 and a quarter run on the 25th, my ankle was really bothering me and I felt like my plantar faciitis was starting to come back in the same foot. As a result, I only ran twice last week, both runs 3 miles or shorter. I felt like I had lost some enthusiasm in regards to running the race and you can probably tell by my lack of blogging. Interestingly enough, I received this month’s Runner’s World in the mail on Saturday and read an article called “Taper Traps”, which described some of the things I was feeling. Apparently, I am not the only one who goes through this in the weeks before a race.

I went and picked up my race packet on Saturday afternoon. Much like the race itself, it doesn’t contain any big frills. It had a Tupelo water bottle and a Tupelo notebook. But it did contain one of the most unique race t-shirts I have ever seen. If you like 70’s and tye-dye, you may travel some distance to get one of these.

I hope someone from the Tupelo Marathon and 14.2-mile race reads this blog because the race map has to be one of the crappiest I have ever witnessed. It is very difficult to read and several of the roads are labeled incorrectly. My wife convinced me to go for a drive Saturday night to check out the course. It was probably a mistake because we didn’t get back until 11 am. (It is a 5 am start). The course goes down country roads in a rural area. Using the crappy map we got made several wrong turns and got lost. However, one thing I noticed is the numerous rolling hills I had not accounted for in my training. I felt that feeling in the pit of my stomach, “Uh-oh.” Looks like 2:30 may even be a bit optimistic!

I set three different alarms to make sure I woke up in time. I set the regular alarm, my cell phone alarm that is capable of waking the dead, and my watch alarm, which is pretty useless but served as a “back-up”. Despite all of my worry, I popped out of bed as soon as my bedside alarm went off at 3:50 am. I ate half of a powerbar and drank some coffee. I made sure my playlist for the race transferred to my ipod correctly. I then got dressed and headed out with some Gatorade to sip on the way to the race, just 10 minutes from my house.

I don’t know what you do before races: stretch, meditate, chat with other racers. Essentially, I poop. Yes, it seems the nervousness before early morning races always gets to me and I need to make several trips to the stall before I feel like I have the “all clear”. I think it was a 3-count this race, not counting a few extra visits to the urinal – just to be sure.

During all of my back and forth treks I did not see anyone I knew so I pretty much kept to myself and thought about the race. I thought about my training, all of the weeks of preparation I had put in just for today. I reflected on disappointment because of the injury that seemed to slow me down but also on the satisfaction of knowing I would be able to complete the distance, something that would have been impossible two years ago. While I knew 2:15 was a long shot I vowed I was going to give it my best and leave it all out on the roads.

The start line was about a ¼ mile from the empty building that we all congregated in. At about 5 minutes to 5 am, everyone slowly mosied over to the line. A few guys were peeing on the side of the road but it was still pretty dark so no one seemed to care. I never heard the start officially go off but everyone started heading out so I started my ipod and went with them.

It was dark and, after a couple of miles, there were no more neighborhoods and the streetlights were spaced far apart. In some places, it was pitch black! I mean, you can’t see your hand in front of your face dark! I hardly ever run at night, much less in the middle of nowhere with nothing to light the way. But you know what, it was soooo fun! There were some people with flashlights and it was enough to stay on the road. The ground was really uneven and I think it would be easy for someone to sprain an ankle in this part of the race.

I couldn’t see any mile markers so I could not be sure how fast I was running. I assumed the first water station was at 3 miles because my watch read 28 minutes. I had decided before the race that I would walk through each water station but I only took a few seconds before I got going again. I was feeling pretty good, running a comfortable pace, and the temperature was perfect!

About 45 minutes into the run, the sun started coming out and a rooster crowed from a nearby farm. It was funny to see all the dogs on the side of the road watching the hundreds of runners go by. Some barked, but most looked at us with a confused look like, “what in the world?!” I paid little attention to scenery and listened to a podcast, trying to keep a steady pace. Every once in a while someone would pass me and I would try to stay with them a while. An hour into the race, I was still feeling good and could now make out mile markers. Sure enough, I was keeping a pace just better than 9:30 a mile.

I felt a twinge of pain in my left foot every once in a while. I tried to put it out of my mind and tell myself I didn’t feel it. It was now light outside and I had passed the 7 mile marker at just under 67 minutes. The next water station was at about 8 miles and walked a bit more through this one. I was now starting the section with all of the rolling hills and I was trying to tell myself that I was not slowing down. I told myself I only had a 10k to go but was not at all comforted by the thought! I picked someone 100 yards ahead that seemed to be at a similar pace and determined myself to catch him. A few minutes later I did. Then the hills started!

I was fortunate to catch a pack of runners when the hills started and I used many of them to pace me. My long run has exactly two hills of similar size on its course but I knew I would be attacking several more than that on this one. I used the pace of others around me and would not let anyone pass me. I passed several runners using this method and feel I kept my pace pretty well.

When I got to 11 miles I was starting to hurt. I had completed most of the hill section and was going through a neighborhood. I told myself I had a 5k to go and felt a bit better this time. Marathoners had started heading the other way and I waved to the race leaders. I checked my watch. I was keeping a steady pace but I could tell it had slowed a bit. I could now see that breaking 2:20 was definitely a possibility. But at mile 12, I was really hurting, pushing myself and telling myself not to walk. At the turnaround they told me to head the other way if I was running the marathon. I said, “Not today!” and took both a water and Gatorade. I knew this would probably be the last one before the finish so I took my time. Looking back, had I took a normal break here, I would have had a better chance to make my time. But I was pretty spent! Both feet and ankles were hurting, my legs were killing me, and my right toes were burning from apparent blisters.

I took a left and had the last big stretch before turning into the parking lot for the race finish. I tried to pick up the pace but I could tell 2:15 was probably out of reach. I resigned in my mind that I just wanted to finish under 2:17. When I made the final right and could see the clock I could see that I had done that. I crossed the line and the lady took off the tabs from my race number. She commented that I wasn’t sweating much at all and congratulated me. My official time was 2:15:55. A pace of 9:35 a mile.

My wife came for the finish and gave me a big hug at the end. My legs were heavy and I had to lean on her for support. Someone handed me a bottled water and my wife snapped a few pictures. She had some great words of encouragement and it started to sink in that I did it! I had completed a 14.2 mile race and at a time I was very satisfied with!

As I write this the day after, my legs are soooo sore! I have knots all in my calves and my quads are killing me! I have a pretty funny walk that has caught the attention of my two toddlers! I worked hard to keep a steady pace but I think the hills are the main culprit. The race was really hard and I can’t imagine running a marathon but, you know what? December 3rd I am going to do exactly that! Wednesday, I will start my training for the St. Jude Memphis Marathon in Memphis, Tennessee. I will be working on my race plan today and tomorrow and hope to have it up later this week.

Now that I have officially completed the race, it doesn’t even seem real. What seemed unreachable several months ago, only serves as a time that I want to better next year. That is what keeps me hitting the roads, running each and every day. It is a race, not against others, not even against some course. Some people say it is the race against the “fat guy” chasing them. But for me, it is even more than that. It is the race against myself. Leaving behind the self I want to avoid, and racing toward the one I want to become.

For some reason, I cannot get pictures to upload into blogger anymore. You can check out the pictures here:

Race Shirt Front

Race Shirt Back

Finishing stretch

I did it!!!


Blogger Phil said...

Congratulations Shane!!!! This is a great run. A 9:35 pace is nothing to sneeze at. Great job gutting it out on the last few miles. These can be tough. You start running out of energy, your legs are aching, and every past injury is coming back to haunt you (the real and the imagined), yet you continued to motor along.

Now that you've got this race under your belt, you will always be someone that completed a 1/2 marathon race (in your case, a mile further). This is something most people never accomplish.

Take a few more days off and eat plenty of healthy protein to repair your over-taxed muscles. Then spend a couple of weeks just running for enjoyment. Don't worry about tempo runs or intervals ... just run whatever distance feels right at whatever pace happens at the moment. You deserve the break.

You'll then be ready to start training for your next event.

Again ... Congratulations.

2:28 PM

Blogger PLANET3RRY said...

Great job!!! WOO HOO

You hung in there when we are at our lowest and our body wants to stop! You made it very close to your goal and even the boston marathon gives you an extra 59 seconds for qualifying! You definitely made it to 2:15!

St. Jude's! Way to set a goal. You already have a great base with plenty of time to train.

Enjoy your rest days!

5:22 PM

Blogger Phil said...

Shane ... what are you up to. I hope everything is going OK and you recovered nicely after your 14 mile race. Give us a post or two and let us know how your doing on your marathon training.

3:29 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Way to go Shane! Those dogs, reckon they were thinking, "Must be some really big hunt they're on for so many of those people to be chasing after them." :) Just a thought.

Knoxville, TN

5:05 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

P.S. from Knoxville,

That Tee Shirt didn't do a thing for me. Of course if I had just gone 14.2 miles, and it was my proof, I'd probably wear it everyday.

5:08 PM


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