(photo disclaimer*the gels appearing in this picture are not mine, nor did I take this picture. I am in no way responsible for the contents in said picture.)
This was my final race of 2011 and I was eager to wrap up my year and get some rest before the 2012 season starts (in one month). This was my 41st race this year and my11th marathon. This is one of 24 races that I ran in 2011 that is at the marathon distance or greater. I have had a fantastic year, covering a lot of miles in some amazing events. Except Catoctin and Conestoga. Those races suck and I never should have done them.
Enough about that though, because I intend to write a "year in review" blog at the end of December...it will be a MUST READ, that's my promise!
I really didn't have any expectations for this race. I just intended to run it and see how things unfolded. My biggest worry was the weather, because I've been running in the cold for a while now and the forecast was suggesting temperatures in the 70's. Even when I'm acclimated, 75 degrees makes for a crappy marathon. But aside from that, I really didn't have a care in the world.
Being so in tune with my body, I was sure to baby it the night before the race so it would be in prime shape to run this distance hard.
I ate almost this entire thing...this is exactly why I run!
This race includes a marathon, half marathon, 10K, 5K, and a marathon relay race. Yeah....a relay...because there weren't already enough options I guess.
By most standards, this is a small event, drawing about 4000 runners for all events. This is also one of the reasons I enjoy this race. The roads are very wide and with fewer runners, we thin out pretty fast, so unlike the Philly Marathon, we didn't have that "Mosh Pit Marathon Action" for the first 8 miles. This is quite refreshing.
Jo and I before the race...As you can see from the picture, I chose to run in my Javelina Jundred race shirt. In my mind, I like to think it intimidates other runners. I have no evidence that this tactic works, but it makes me feel like a bad ass, so I roll with it.
As you can see from Jo's hair, the wind was blowing HARD before, and during the race. It was mostly a side wind while we were running, but it added a level of difficulty to the race.
Jo and I lined up and got ready for the start. I stepped up in front of the 8 Minute per Mile group, and Jo headed back a little further. At 6:45, we were off!
The sun was just coming up over the Atlantic when we started. It was a pretty pleasant run for the first 3 miles and I began to overheat. I slowed down enough to pull my shirt off and tuck it into the back of my shorts. I realized right away that this would effect the intimidating powers of my race shirt, but I really had no choice. I was pretty damn hot! But fortunately, I was still wearing my Leadville visor, so I'm pretty sure it was obvious that I was NOT a runner to mess with.
I was clicking off some pretty strong split times. At mile 7, the heat began to really get to me. I soaked myself with water at the aid stations and drank Gatorade heavily. I fought the elements as best I could, but it was rough coming from weather in the 30's and having to run hard in this weather.
At mile 20, I noticed that I had crushed my previous 20 mile record. For whatever reason, this is the mile marker that I always pay the most attention to. I can usually gauge my race based on how long it took me to get to 20 miles. It was at this point that I started to take this race seriously. I realized I had a great opportunity to not only PR, but PR in a big way. But a lot can happen in the last 6 miles.
I continued to feel pretty strong after the 20 mile mark. But right as I passed the 23 mile sign, I started to feel terrible. I wanted this race to be over so badly, that I just focused on running as hard as I could. I was gutting it out with everything in me.
I have run a lot of hard races and I've faced a few serious challenges, but I had NEVER made the sounds that were now coming out of my body. I was emitting some grunting noise between breaths and doing something that could have been mistaken for speaking in tongues. It was really odd, and it was really freaking me out. But I kept powering on...and I was passing runners. This was the first time in my life that I thought I might actually collapse at the finish line, like all those guys I've made fun of in the past. This was a real concern. Losing my faculties at the end of a race is not cool. Not cool at all.
Jo finished her race in 2:39:xx, so I knew she would be waiting for me, but was also worried that she might not be expecting me this early. Which might not be a bad thing, especially if I fall down and crap my running shorts at the finish line. I don't need a picture of that. Nobody does. But...as always, there she was, waiting for me at the finish line!
Here I come!
You can click on this picture to verify, but I'm actually smiling as I cross the finish line.
This is a finish line pose that I learned from Hal Koerner.
My finish time was right at 3:34. That was a full 10 minutes off my PR from the Baltimore Marathon in October. I was elated! Especially because I had no expectations for this race and had spent no time preparing for it. That explains the stupid grin in these photos!
I had blasted passed the last two water stops on the course and was dying of thirst. I was also hungry...I didn't fuel with anything during the race except a few small cups of Gatorade.
Jo and I right after I finished. My smile is gone now. Not because I'm not happy, but because I have 3 chocolate chip cookies crammed into my mouth.
I enjoyed this race and was thrilled with a new PR, but this event meant more to me than the race itself. It was the culmination of my year. This was a year packed with ridiculous races, especially for somebody with my very limited running experience. I somehow avoided injury all year. On top of that, I got stronger and faster as I worked through my race schedule. To be absolutely honest, I never really thought I could pull this off. But here I am at the end of it, stronger, faster, and healthy enough to run any race, at any distance, whenever I want.
This was a fitting end to a fantastic year!
Happy Trails my friends!