Sunday, December 13, 2009
Thunder Road conquered!
So yesterday was the Thunder Road 5K, half marathon, and marathon! Friday we went down to pick up our chips, bibs and shirts. I really think the nerves started kicking in on Friday morning. It's one thing to run 12 miles as a practice run, but to actually have it be a race? I didn't even get nervous about the 15K we did in October.
Friday after work, I went bowling with 3 of my co-workers. Then hit Run For Your Life to pick up some Hammer Gel. They were telling me about a previous race in which the temperature was 18 degrees, and the water at the water stations began to freeze. Gulp. I had been checking the weather all week. I knew that the high that day was only going to be 53 degrees. So of course, it was NOT going to be 53 at the 7:50 a.m. kick off time. Earlier in the week, weather reports said that it would be rainy. The folks at RFYL advised that it would not be. Phew! I re-checked the weather and they were right.
I went to bed around 9:00pm on Friday night, after having a small pasta dinner. I set my alarm for 5:15 a.m., and got up and moving around 5:30 a.m. or so. I got up that early to try and stave off any issues with my digestive system. I had a banana for breakfast and took my time getting ready. I checked the temperature and it was a whopping 27 degrees. Thanks, Mother Nature!
Cheryl, Janelle and I met at our usual meeting place, and car pooled in Janelle's car to uptown Charlotte. Jay decided not to run, and for this, he has been on "shun status" since yesterday. He kept saying that he wasn't ready - I kept asking him how that was possible, since we completed the same training?? While I logically understood WHY he wasn't running, I was a bit sad because his pace is a little closer to mine, and I knew he would pull me along. I was going to have to do this on my own, and not get caught up in the crowd.
The crowd was truly off the chain. There were 1,460 5K finishers (589 males, 871 females), 2,992 half marathon finishers (1,451 males, 1,541 females), and 1,409 marathon finishers (975 male, 434 female). The marathon and half marathon started at 7:50, but the 5K kicked off after our race. There was a huge sea of people in and surrounding the Convention Center. Finding a bathroom to get into before the race start time was a challenge, but we managed to pull it off.
Did I mention that it was cold? I don't know about you other runners, but I always struggle with my cold weather gear. I don't want to have too much on, because if I have to strip down, I'm likely going to have to just drop it in the road. But, I don't want to freeze either. I ended up with some Nike Fit-Dri gear that I found at the outlet, and then I put the Thunder Road t-shirt over that. This combination seemed to work. During the race I didn't really feel the cold.
We tried to get as close to the start line as possible. They were allowing 3 hours to finish the half marathon, and 6 hours to finish the marathon, starting from gun time. Cheryl was concerned about making it in that time, but I knew that she would. The gun went off and this massive sea of folks started moving forward. Looking on the ground I could see that folks had already shed clothing, gloves and Gu packets. There were so many spectators cheering us on. Everyone says, "don't let the excitement of the race cause you to take your pace out too fast." I see why, now. You get excited and caught up in the moment, and suddenly you are moving along with the crowd, which might be moving faster than your pace.
Cheryl, Janelle and I stayed together for the first 1/2 mile or so. We tried to stay to the right to let the faster runners move ahead, but it really didn't even matter. People were ducking and diving and cutting in between us, trying to jockey for position. We moved down 3rd and made our way towards Charlottetown Rd, to head over to 4th. By the time we started up the hill towards Charlottetown, they were no longer with me, so I had to cut up my music and go it alone.
Once we got onto 4th and to the first water stop, I was feeling ok. I tried to pick out folks in the crowd that seemed to be going with my pace, and stick with them. I said, from the moment I signed up for this race, that I would be happy with a pace between 11 - 12 minutes, allowing for the crazy hills. When we ran the 15K I came in with a 12:45 pace. I did not want to run anywhere near that. I would check Nike+ periodically, which was accurate at the beginnig of the race. At the end, not so much. LOL! My pace is clearly not even enough for Nike+ on a long distance run. Oh well.
Around me, people kept shedding clothes. Except for the three guys dressed in the red long johns and Santa hats. I chuckled a bit as they came running by me. The long johns had the slits in the back. Thankfully they had black running tights underneath them. Lots of people had on Christmas-themed socks and other gear. One marathon runner had on a full Santa suit. I guess he was warm, if nothing else!
Around mile 5.5 I broke out my Hammer Gel. I had to take off my gloves and stuff them in between my shirt and my fuel belt. For some reason I just can't seem to open that little packet with my glove on. I finished the gel and as I was approaching the 6 mile marker, one of my gloves dropped out and I kicked it. Ah well. Not going back for that thing! I'll just have to pull my sleeves down if my hands get cold again. At that point, my body heat was flowing and I really didn't feel the cold. Right after the 10K split check, there was a guy juggling what looked like bowling pins. He chased one of the runners in front of me, trying to get her to participate in his juggling.
I made it to the 7 mile marker before I stopped to walk for 1 minute. I remember my mind wandering and thinking, OK I got 7 done, but man - I still have 6.1 to go! This is when it would have been good to have Jay there. I remember during the practice runs we chatted a bit and it kept my mind off of the challenge of the run. From this point on, it became some type of random interval run. I ran as much as I could. I wanted to not walk again until I got to the 10 mile marker, but the hill on Sharon Road got me, and I had to stop and walk again. I tried to keep my walking intervals to no more than 2 minutes. Most of them were 1 minute. I just didn't have the "umph" that day.
The cold weather wasn't helping. My left quad decided to start hurting and would not let up. I was feeling disappointed in the amount of walking I had to do. I wondered how Cheryl and Janelle were doing. In the midst of all those people, I still felt a little alone. But I pressed on. The last three miles were pure torture. Luckily, the end of the race did not have as much elevation as the practice run. Apparently, Thunder Road is famous because of all these hills. One of the guys at the expo told us about a half marathon in Tampa. He said there was only one 20 ft elevation. I think I need to go run that one. LOL!
I've never been so happy to see a finish line in all my life. I ended up with a time of 2:31:03, which is an 11:32 pace. So I hit my goal, as far as pace. I can't help but wonder what myt ime would have been, if I hadn't done as much walking. Despite the craziness of it all, I think I want to run this race again next year. I want to challenge myself to get a faster time. I know I can do it. I'll just need to focus on speed training, and longer runs during the week. I'm proud that I finished the race. I think my track coach from high school would be proud, too. I don't think he ever saw me run anything over 3.1 miles.
Oh - this morning we treated ourselves to breakfast at ye ole Cracker Barrel. This is where we normally go after our recovery runs on Sundays. We decided to skip the recovery run and just go straight to breakfast. Turns out one of the waitresses there had also run the half marathon, so we took a pic with her:
We even convinced her boss to let her wear her medal during the day. :)