I Ran a Marathon! Rock and Roll Savannah
I finally did it. A long time bucket list item has now been checked off the list, I ran a marathon. Since I was a teenager I always wanted to do a triathlon and a marathon so this goal has been a long time coming. I’m not even sure why I had this desire, I never liked running alone until this past year, even last year the slipshod training I thought I was doing for those few 5ks was mind numbingly excruciating. Having a goal and a plan I think was the key!
First off, a Savannah marathon is cruel. We have 4 seasons, unfortunately only 2 of those 52 weeks out of the year are Fall and Spring. So training for a Marathon in early November involves starting a training plan around July 4th, and this year was a particularly brutal Summer. Deciding what to wear was one of my stresses this week, You start off spending sometime in a corral freezing because you’re not moving so you need enough clothing to stay warm, but once moving you’re wearing too much. I opted for something I’d never done before called the “ditch method” where you find an old shirt, sweatshirt, etc, then ditch them after a few miles. With the cold and wind blowing off the river onto Bay Street for the first 1.5mi it was somewhere just before mile 3 before I stripped off a long sleeve Tshirt I started with. Getting to the start line in time was also another stress after the craziness of people coming in to Savannah on Friday to get to the expo. I still don’t consider myself an “athlete” but I fully understand now why it’s important for them to be 100% focused on game day. Dealing with controversy, fans, etc must way heavily on them, I don’t know how they do it.
I got downtown early and got what I considered a good parking spot but since I was early I sat in the car for a while with the heater on, at least until the water and Powerade I’d been sipping on had reached maximum bladder capacity and I had to start making my way towards a potty and my corral. Thank goodness I walked through Ellis Square on the way, the bathrooms were heated, lit, and no line , much better the porta potties at the start that were stacked 30 deep waiting. Then I headed to corral 10 where I was supposed to meet my cousin Chip who I never found. Where are you Chip?!?! The corrals seemed small to me but they were starting them pretty quickly, other races I’ve done they wait a set time between like 3-5min but it was approximately 12 minutes after the start that I was crossing the start line and starting my Garmin.
With no buildings on the right there was some crosswind coming off the river, especially at the viaduct up high in the air like that. I used that climb to catch up to some of the corral 9 pack that I affectionately have dubbed “The Liars,” I passed a LOT of these all day. The Liars are people that put down a speed way faster than they possibly could come close to running in their present shape so they get a better corral. Problem is getting around them because their love handles that they haven’t trained off yet are usually sticking way out and there are usually 2-3 of them walking abreast, I wish the race committees would try harder to stop this because its dangerous to us runners.Out of the whole event I’d say this would be my only “complaint” about Rock and Roll is there was ZERO security at the corrals, no one was there to check numbers. Mine was fully blocked under my Tshirt, no one questioned me walking into my corral. At Disney, Cooper River, and Peachtree there are 2-3 people at every corral inspecting your number when you walk in.
Mile 2-3 and 5-7 were through “the hood” and 3-5 was through industrial/warehouse district, not the prettiest parts of our town but there was good support on the side of the roads there, lots of residents cheering us on. At mile 3 there was a hairpin turn and just as I was making it there was an ambulance trying to scoot onto the course headed in the same direction. It had a hard time getting through even though runners tried to edge over to the right, it was just a narrow road. I never saw anything that looked like a problem though, I have no idea where they were going. Around 3.5 I did pass a guy dressed up as Beaker from the Muppets, crazy costume to wear even for a half marathon, thats like 5k stuff there.
Mile 7 brought us back into the historic district and I found myself in a little bit thinner part of the pack and knowing there was a series of turns coming up I was able to move from left to right through each turn to take the shortest path until I got to Liberty street where I saw my friend Sarah waiting for her husband Jeremiah to come by in his first half marathon. She was on the outside of the turn there at the Civic Center so I couldn’t get by her in time to give the high 5 but did recognize her in time to wave. Liberty was a gauntlet of cheering supporters, almost too enthusiastic because they were edging out into the road making it narrow in places, I almost ran into one that was too far out. I also knew there was a Gu station coming up so I eased to the inside of the next turn so I’d be at the edge, I was sure there would be many that didn’t know where they were and would be surprised when they made that corner onto Price and bam there was the first Gu station. They only had 2 flavors, Blackberry and vanilla, sticky vanilla did NOT sound appealing so I tossed it back on the table and grabbed a few blackberry and got out of the chute, I wasn’t due to eat for another mile anyway so I passed a lot of people there.
My next thoughts were Gordonston area just east of town around mile 11, after passing under Truman parkway. A co worker lives in that are somewhere but I wasn’t familiar with that area. I kept my eyes open for ya Jay but it was kind of twisty in there with the roundabouts and a hairpin turn and didn’t see you so if you were there when I passed I’m sorry I missed you. Next up I saw those dreaded cones start splitting the road, half marathoners to the right, marathoners to the left, we were approaching the split.
Just as soon as we turned up the ramp getting onto the Truman parkway southbound in the northbound lane it got a lot quieter. The vast majority of the 23,000 runners do the half marathon so most of them kept going straight to their finish less than 2 miles from here, we weren’t even to the halfway point yet. This first segment of Truman parkway I made my first mental mistake of the day, I forgot about the wind. We were running with it and booking it down the parkway, it was only a short run down to Victory Drive where we got off but it felt good, I didn’t realize until later that a lesson a learned long ago in cycling would bite me later. When cycling I had learned what speeds I was capable of so if things were feeling “too good” I knew to start looking at the grass, trees, or leaves and see if there was any discernible wind bending them in my direction, if so there was a tail wind and you should conserve some energy if you were going to have to face that wind later, but if you were on the last leg give it all you got. I also skipped a mile here on my Gu routine. I had been doing a Gu every 3 miles. I knew about where the water stations were so I’d do one before it so I could get water to wash the stickiness down and rinse the hands, I always seem to get sticky on my hands. But I skipped mile 12 Gu and did the next at 13. Since I was in the middle of the race it was more of a strategy based on a training run where I ate too much and spent 4-5 miles getting rid of the feeling of having a wad of Gu in my belly, I think it worked other than its easier to count by 3′s and remember 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, etc, I now had to do math and remember 13, 16, 19, and on LOL.
Getting to Victory was good because I’d gotten a text from my dad that had ridden his bike down to Grayson stadium and texted me that he was there so I was only about a mile away. It was also the halfway point, 13.1miles. This is where I knew I’d been going too fast overall and finally made some corrections. My split there was 2:03:49, over 2 full minutes faster than the half marathon I had just run in Disney a month ago, your marathon pace should be a little slower and here I was cooking it. There was a water stop there at the turn so I even slowed to a walk for a few seconds on Dixie Ave approaching Kerry St just to let the HR slow a touch, then on to the stadium. I knew exactly where dad would be so I was able to pay attention to the couple of turns at Grayson and even remembered that WSAV was right across the street so I decided to do a Foursquare checkin with another friend that works there, Crystal, who even commented back on my checkin. If she wasn’t able to be on the side cheering I was glad she was paying attention, I got LOTS of online support during this race. I saw dad before he saw me and jumped up on the sidewalk and ran into him. I stopped long enough to say hey and get a pic taken but was quickly on my way. I also was going to have to take a potty break soon, I’d actually passed several porta potties for the last few miles but while all the runners were together there were lines at them all, but once we split it thinned the field down enough that in the middle of Grayson they had staggered some and I found one that was empty pretty quick. I lost well over a minute with these 2 stops though that would come back later and worry me . Just have to remember that this was the first marathon and I beat my goal. Onward.
My next thoughts were Savannah State at mile 16, I heard that WTOC had setup there to shoot and knew there was a bandstand and water station so figured there would be a good bit of people there but I wasn’t even close to knowing what was coming up. First was Cytomax & water, plus some to rinse the hands. Next I saw the WTOC truck and boom up in the air. Then it started getting LOUD as I approached the intersection at Skidaway, and when I say loud I mean LOUD! There were a ton of people there cheering, including cheerleaders. There was music coming from the band stand on the corner, it was awesome. There weren’t as many people here as there was back at Liberty but they were awesome and very enthusiastic, they had the most exciting and motivating cheer station of the day, if there was an award for this the SSU stop would have won it hands down! Plus they are my alma mater, not something a lot of people know.
Then it happened. Somewhere on Laroche just past SSU I stepped funny on some uneven pavement, something almost imperceptible, but it torqued my knee ever so slightly. I moved over to the side and slowed to a walk for a second, then stepped off into someone’s driveway and rubbed it a bit, this was the only time all day I actually stopped moving. I eased back out into a clear spot and ran a little but it hurt again, almost to the point that I think a tear even welled up. I slowed to a walk again and rubbed it some as I walked but I knew I couldn’t stop. It was on the outside of the knee though, not like under the kneecap or behind it so I felt like it wasn’t something really bad and that I was just going to have to deal with the pain. I was over 16 miles into this had just single digits to go, stopping was not an option at this point, I’d deal with pain during and after if I had to. Once I got to the part of Laroche where it opens up to the marsh I tried to look around and enjoy it, this is where I grew up and I knew this view well. I don’t get back to this side of town much but its some of the most beautiful part of Chatham co to me. So I took my mind off of the knee and tried to enjoy the run again. I also knew that we were getting close to the southernmost part of the route, as far away as we’d be all day, and would soon turn back north and head to the finish. At the turn off Laroche onto Nottingham there was a medical tent and I came oh so close to stopping but didn’t want to waste the time and doubted there would be anything they could do. I’d spend more time trying to make decisions of how bad it was, could I go on, blah blah blah of medical staff wanting to CYA so I picked it back up to a run. Plus I caught Elvis here! There was a guy in full on late Elvis costume, cape and all, running a marathon. I wish I’d taken a picture.
I was getting out of Gu too, I did one at mile 19 since I was off schedule and didn’t realize that there wasn’t a water stop at 19, whats up with that. I had forgotten where the next Gu stop was though I knew there were 2 in total, I came real close to tweeting to ask someone to look for me so I could plan better, I can’t believe I forgot where it was though. Fortunately it came a mile later just before 20 along with some water to rinse the sticky out of my mouth. I grabbed more blackberry fromthe table and then there was a guy that was passing them out toward the end that started yelling at me “I believe in you so you believe in you, get running” so I held out my hand to “give me five” and he slapped down with another Gu and I took off toward 20.
Mile 20 was rapidly approaching, I’d never been past 20 before. In training my buildup long runs were 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, and thats it, you don’t go past 20 especially in your first year training. There’s also always been this mythical “wall” somewhere out there around mile 20-22. The wall is something you supposedly “hit” that makes you stop all together, it can bring you to your knees, make you quit, or at the very least make you question what you are doing and why you are there and slow you down a while. I’d even had a twitter discussion with someone I don’t even know about it several months ago, and she was a trainer up in Charleston, I told her I don’t believe it exists. So there I was running at that 20 mile sign, what was about to happen, would I bounce off the wall? I started thinking about Chuck Yeager breaking the sound “barrier” that people thought was actually a barrier until he broke it and proved it wasn’t a barrier, just another number on a gauge.
Actually something completely opposite happened on the other side of 20, I found Mary right around the corner. Mary and I went to school together at Savannah Christian WAY back when, I’ve known her longer than a lot of people I’m around on a regular basis. I knew she was out on the course, she’d posted on Facebook that she would be, but I wasn’t sure exactly where, I had hoped I hadn’t missed her, but she saw me coming and yelled and came out into the street and gave me a hug, sorry about the sweaty hug Mary! It was comforting though and I was glad she was there, its good to see people you actually know rooting for you. I lost a little bit of time there but it was totally worth it. I hope there is a Mary out there past mile 20 for everyone, you were way better than a wall.
So there I was on the other side of 20 with 10k/6.2 miles to go. In training I always tried to break up a run into segments that I’d done before, so at 20 I think “Hey, there’s only 10k to go, heck I’ve done that before in under an hour.” It’s a mental thing, gotta get there somehow. I was also somewhere around 3:10 so I figured I was well on my way to beating my self imposed 4:30 marathon time, possibly by a good bit if the knee stayed good for me, it seemed ok at the time. I’d never driven through this particular neighborhood around Bacon Park and wasn’t completely sure where I was going but ended up on Derenne pretty quick, near Jenkins HS, so I knew I wasn’t far from getting back on the Truman Parkway that would take me almost all the way to mile 25, I just needed to get up that last ramp. That went ok but as soon as we got up the southbound ramp we made a U turn and went North in the southbound lane, and there it was, over 3miles of stiff headwind blowing right in our faces. I reached in my pocket and pulled out my earphones that I’d brought along just in case. I normally run with music during training, especially on long runs. A good song can motivate you like you wouldn’t believe, sometimes more than you know. I’ve looked at my heart rate monitor on one song and it may be at 158 and then a really good song comes on and I check it and its 168 and I’m flying. So I put my earphones in and turned on Pandora on a station I’d been using for a while now. I had been reluctant to use it on the marathon because I wasn’t sure how long the battery would last, I’d never been over 3:30 running with my running app and streaming Pandora so I decided to hold out until I was sure I was cool and needed it. Crappy song (thumbs down,) crappy song (thumbs down,) I don’t know how many I did that to. Then something came on I liked, don’t remember what it was but it filled time. Then the Cars ‘Just What I Needed’ came on, not a huge motivator but maybe it was just what I needed. Then something fabulous happened. For several weeks now on this channel Pandora has played AC/DC ‘For Those About To Rock’ which is a very motivating song while running. I even changed the lyric to ‘For those About To Run’ and thought it would be awesome if they had AC/DC at the start of the race singing “For those about to RUN, FIRE! We salute you!!!’ There would be canons firing for the 21 gun salutes at the end. Well guess what song came on just past mile 24? I cranked up the volume, blocked out the knee, and kicked in as fast a pace as I thought I could aerobically sustain for 2 miles. I can even see it happening on the Garmin website that displays time, distance, pace, heart rate, map, etc. There were a lot of little slow downward spikes where I walked, then all of a sudden a spike up and a ramp up in speed. just past 24. Then I saw the ramp off the Truman down on to Anderson and I knew that just after getting on Anderson was the 25mi mark.
The song ended somewhere not long after getting on Anderson near the 25 sign so I pulled out the earphones and shut down Pandora. I was just over a mile away which with healthy legs would take my under 10 minutes. I didn’t want to fumble with the phone any more and I didn’t want earphones in at the finish nor did I want them dangling, I knew it would be crazy at the finish possibly with barriers to keep people away which also makes the road narrower. It also ended on a one way street at Forsyth Park and would be split in half because of the half marathoners needing a different chute so it would be narrow. There was also a turn just short of the finish and the finish wasn’t far past that. I didn’t want any distractions. There was one slight rise and I did slow to a walk for a moment but I kept looking at my time, it was edging ever so close to 4:30 and I wanted to get in under that time, it had been in my head for months, so back up running. Then there it was, barriers, I was close. I eased over to the right so I could see if I could see people turning, “crap, not yet, where is it?!” Run, run, run, “where is it?” Then I started seeing people make a hard right, that was it. I started making a “hole” for myself in the crowd of runners, it was about to get narrower than I thought, once in the chutes there may have been room for 2 runners side by side to safely run, s0 I made myself big. My arms went out, I moved slightly left and right a little unpredictably, I took the corner a little wide to make sure no one was going to try and do anything crazy right there in sight of the finish. The feet of the metal barriers stick out some so I didn’t want to be up against them either and trip, how stupid would that look right in sight of the finish? I didn’t feel anything, no pain anywhere, I don’t even know if I was breathing at that point, I could have been holding my breath or panting like a dog. All I know is what I can see on my gps and my last .2 miles were over a minute faster pace than the previous 10, even faster than during AC/DC. Bam, there was the finish, I did at least remember to pick my feet up and over the timing strip and hit the stop on my Garmin GPS. When I looked down the time said 4:29:21. “Holy crap, I might have done it” I thought. I’ve learned from other races that the official time isn’t ever exactly started and stopped where I thought it was so I’ve seen it off in both directions faster and slower sometimes by as much as 20-30 seconds, I knew it would be close.My dad had texted me a few miles back and told me he’d gotten to the finish and was about 75′ down on the right and since he’d rode the bike he was pretty easy to spot in cycling gear and helmet. I looked around and saw the medals wishing that my friend Aurora from Orlando was there. She VoluntEars for the Disney races and always gets to pass out medals at the finishes and is my first hug. I hobbled over to my dad, where did that pain come back from? OUCH! How do the legs get stiff that fast? He pointed across the street to where he’d spotted Kriss and Kellie so we hugged and I hobbled over to her, I got bottled water from somewhere though I’m not crazy about drinking from those bottles any more. I gave her a big hug and Kellie stepped up on the barrier and I put my arms around them both. Kriss started talking to the lady beside her and I did a double take trying to figure out if I knew her but she didn’t look familiar, I guess it was just someone she met there. She offered to take a family picture so Kriss gave her the phone with camera ready. I wasn’t sure how far down I needed to walk to get out of the barricades so I told her about the knee and she followed me on the other side. I also needed food and was already getting cold but found the bananas, bagels, Cytomax, and solar blankets and hobbled until I found a hole to get through. Dad had already gotten his bike pushed across the street somehow, I must have really been slow moving. I remember I kept handing things to Kriss so I could eat the banana. I’ve had that problem before at finish lines. You get a bottled water, sport drink, banana, bagel, energy bar, cup of fruit, and several other things at some races. How do you hold all that crap and peel a banana or the cellophane off a fruit cup while hobbling and holding all of that. You kind of have to commit to something and go with it ’til you can dump it in the trash when you’re alone, and choosing the bagel first is a BAD idea because you will choke not being able to get the top off the water bottle.I also kept hearing my watch beep, it has a metal touch bezel around it and the sweaty mylar solar blanket apparently was conducting through the moisture and making it beep and do things so I took it off and handed to her too.
We stood there for a moment, me leaning on dad’s bike, and talked while I got composed. Kriss said the car wasn’t far so we started moving towards it. At the other side of the park I stopped and stood on the curve with dad while she and Kellie brought the car to me and off home we went after I got dropped at my car. I made a beeline to the bathtub and filled it with water as hot as I could stand and started easing down into it. No clue how long I was in there, Kriss kept checking on me. At some point I stood up to step over to the shower and near passed out, I think the blood all dropped to my feet. Quick shower, calf compression sleeves, baggy pants (we call them our fat pants that we sleep in,) couch, blanket, crash. What a day, what a year.
Sorry again for such long posts back to back, I again don’t expect many to read all the way through but someone somewhere, maybe even me in the future, may benefit from it. Rock n Roll/Competitor put on an awesome event. I’ve run 4 Disney events that were awesome, but thats what I expect from Disney. They put on a race on their property with complete control of the total situation. There are fans to cheer you on many are cast members, especially the ones in the parks because they are closed. Its cool to see all of the characters and many stop to take pics in race attire with them. But his race was every bit the event that Disney puts on but spread throughout the entire city. The fans were all there because they wanted to be, Rock n Roll doesn’t ship those in. Savannah hosted a great event as huge as St Patrick’s Day on many levels and it will only get better next year from what they’ve learned this one.
The big question, will I ever do it again or is it off my bucket list so move along? It is off the list, but I have plans to run more races already, even 2 half marathons in February. All along I was never sure about how I’d feel about another marathon though. Would I even want to run another? They even say not to say “never” for at least a week, sometimes a month after. But I’ve already recovered some. The knee hurts a little and I’m a little stiff, but we even went out for lunch and did some walking downtown. What’s eating me now is “what if?” What if I hadn’t torqued my knee. I feel like I’ve got unresolved business now. I was on pace to be under 4:10 even after I slowed at the half until the knee incident. I’m very thankful it wasn’t bad, I’ll be running again very soon. But I know I’m capable of more than “just finishing,” I’ve done that and proven it to myself. I don’t expect to qualify for Boston, but would like to know what I’m capable of when I put a year of my life into something. I have never put so much into something so long that didn’t involve a ring or a diaper, something that was just for me. So maybe I’ll be like Rocky after losing, Eye of the tiger baby, eye of the tiger!
So how about the digits? Drumroll please;
- 26.2 miles in 4:29:23 (Official)
- Moving time 4:25:57 (Unofficial, from GPS) You lose more time than you think on potty breaks, stretching, knee rubbing, and hugs. Keep moving!
- Avg pace 10:15. I should have been a minute faster than this on average.
- Best Pace 7:38, that was way too fast. Glad I realized it fairly early and slowed, just wish the knee hadn’t forced me to be slower.
- Average heart rate 159. Max 170. This was about perfect, 170 is pushing what I believe to be my LT, I couldn’t sustain that but yes it happened during AC/DC, rock on!
- 7-8 Gu’s. Lost exact count but based on my plan including the change at mi 12-13 its somewhere in there. I took some with me but also got some from the course but didn’t count how many I stuck in my pockets. I knew what worked in training, I knew what weighed heavy in my stomach. I knew I didn’t want to bonk so I erred on the side of too much than bonking. I can run off fullness but you can’t recover from bonking.
- I drank at every stop, sometimes 2 cups. At every stop with sport drink I drank it, usually with water behind it.Bad thing about not carrying your own fluids is you can’t measure. Good thing is, you don’t have to carry it, that’ll win every time.
- Weight lost from before the race to getting home, 1lb. I think this says a lot about my hydrating strategy and what I’ve learned in training. On my really bad 14 mi run in July I lost over 8lbs, running 12 less miles. On Sunday weigh in day after marathon I was down another 2 lbs, likely fluids.