Monday, March 9, 2015

Run Hard Columbia Marathon RR

What: Run Hard Columbia Marathon
When: March 7, 2015
Where: Columbia, SC
Weather: 30F-50F, sunny
Why: To meet some awesome friends!
Goals: Mainly to just finish, but I did want to at least finish sub-5:00
Link to Race Data: Suunto Ambit 2 Race Data
Official Time: 4:29:15

I registered for this race as soon as registration opened, about a year ago. I had a decent running year in 2014, with my longest, and most fun race being a 50K in October. After October, I took a little down time and reduced mileage to let nagging issues recover. I had planned on starting training for it December by getting my long runs back to 13 miles, but it didn't workout that way. My longest run in December was 9.3 miles.

I did make a good push in January, with the first few weeks having long runs of 9.3, 11.3, and 13.5 miles. However, a quad issue, not running related, stopped my training after that. As the quad issue healed, I dealt with a bad case of bronchitis for roughly three weeks. I believe the last two weeks of January consisted of maybe a total of 10 miles, with just about three of those being from walking. Basically, ever time I started to make gains in training, I had either an illness or non-running related injury halt my training for 2-3 weeks. Whenever I started back up, it felt like my cardio endurance was shot. Ultimately, I really only had 10 days of training for the race after I had fully recovered from the effects of the bronchitis. My highest mileage week was the week before the race with 40 miles and a long run of 16.5. Not what I would really call ideal. Overall, I think my average weekly mileage for the year is less than 20 miles/week.

Race Weekend:
I decided to drive to SC and camp out before the race. I've camped out before all my longer races and never had an issue. Well, camping wasn't really the issue this time, it was the drive down there.  I woke up at 12:30a.m. Thursday morning and started my drive at 2:00. It was going well until I hit Kentucky. A major snow storm had hit earlier and wrecked havoc on the road conditions. Here are a few pictures to show what I mean:
Traffic was stopped at this point. Pretty sure this was in Kentucky.

In Kentucky while trying to find a way around the blockage of I-24. I'd later find out that it was shut down for about 65 miles.

This was around Mile Marker 8 on I-24 EB in Kentucky. While taking a different road, I was informed they had one lane open all the way to Nashville. This is what the highway looked like until about Mile Marker 65, I was the only vehicle travelling east on the roadway.
Due to the road conditions, I didn't make it to the campground until around 9:30 Thursday night. Wouldn't you know it, the gates to the campground were locked. Thankfully, after waiting about 30 minutes, a park ranger verified my reservation and let me in. I was then given the lock combination so I could let myself in and out after the gates had closed, it would have been good to be given that when I verified my registration earlier in the week.

Luckily, the new tent only took me 5-10 minutes to set up, but by the time I got to sleep, I've been awake for nearly 23 hours. Again, not ideal for a race.  I managed to get a good six hours of sleep and woke up to the sounds of birds, one of my favorite ways to wake up!

I went for a short 2.5 mile shakeout run along the campground roads in the morning, then around noon I walked a two mile loop around the campground lake. It was a gorgeous day. I eventually made it to the race expo to pick up my race packet and ended up seeing one of the good friends I was going to be meeting earlier, Jennifer! See, the whole reason I registered for this race was to finally meet some of my good friends from an online running team, the Free Agents, that I've been a member of since 2008. Jennifer was leaving the expo, but parked and came back inside so we could chat some. Talk about good southern hospitality! After I picked up my packet and we talked with one of her friends, we went our separate ways until meeting up with the rest of the gang at dinner.

I made my way to our pre-race dinner spot, the Mellow Mushroom, and soon met with two other friends from the team, Mallory and Wendy. Shortly thereafter, Jennifer showed up. Us four made our way in and got seated at a booth. We would later be joined by one of Mallory's friends, Joe and then finally our team captain, Susan. The food was good, but the conversation was better. By the end of the dinner, it had seemed that we've all been good friends for a long time and you wouldn't have guessed that this was the first time we've met in person.

Here's the gang! From left to right we have Jennifer, Susan, me, Wendy, Mallory, and Joe.
After a night of great conversation we said our goodbyes and made plans to meet up pre-race. Since Jennifer had some runners that she was coaching, she was unable to make the pre-race meet-up.

Race Day
After about six hours of sleep, I made it to the race start after a short 20 minute drive. I mixed up my the Tailwind in my bottles, then headed out to the starting area. Once I left the parking garage I met up with Mallory and Wendy, but realized I forgot my shades in the car and told them I'd meet them at the starting area.

Once everyone arrived, we had a pre-race photo taken:
Mallory, Wendy, myself, Joe, and Susan
It was chilly at the start, but didn't feel too bad. According to, it was 30F near the time the race started. Thankfully, there really wasn't any wind. When it was time to line up, Wendy, Mallory, myself, and Joe found a spot in the small crowd and lined up. Wendy and Mallory were running the half while Joe and I were lucky enough to experience the course twice as the marathon was a two loop course. Susan and Jennifer ran the 5K and started 30 minutes later.

We didn't see any pace markings or groups, but it turns out we were behind the 4:45 pacer. The pacers had a bib on their back showing the time they were pacing, but unlike any other race I had run previously, they didn't carry any flags to help you find them in the crowd.  I contemplated moving up as my goal had changed to sub-4:30 with a "if the planets aligned" goal of sub-4:00. Ultimately I stayed put and just decided to run what felt comfortable for as long as I could and just see how the race shakes out.

Some pictures of the crowd pre-race:

lined up, facing the starting line.

Facing behind me.
Race Fueling Plan:
Based upon my 16.5 mile run the previous weekend, I made changes to my fueling plan. I still used Tailwind that I carried in my Orange Mud VP2 vest, but I supplemented it with an S!Cap every four miles to ensure I got enough electrolytes in during the run. Since I cramped during the 16.5 mile run, I knew I wouldn't drink enough on the run to get all my needed electrolytes from my Tailwind, especially since the bottles wouldn't be refilled during the race. The Tailwind was mixed at two scoops (200 calories) per 24 ounce bottle. This fueling plan worked great!

The Race:
Once the race started, we wished each other good luck then set off to run our own races. I started moving ahead, then was abruptly stopped when I ran into the woman in front of me because she had dropped her phone and stopped to pick it up, creating a pile up. I started running again, but quickly noticed that one of my bottles popped out during the pile up. I retrieved it without interfering with others, then started again. Definitely not a good start to the race.

Overall, the course wasn't too challenging, some rolling hills, with one steep hill around mile 11. With that said, I think some tectonic plates shifted and the hills became steeper on the second loop. It surely couldn't have been my lack of hill training, well lack of training of any kind that made it feel worse on the second loop.

I'm not too much for recalling every mile of a race, so here are my basic feelings of the race as I remember them now:

The first half of the race I felt very comfortable and never felt like I was pushing too hard. I had worn my gloves for the first few miles, but they felt like they were making my hands colder so I took them off and let my hands warm up on their own. By Mile 5, they were no longer cold. I had originally planned to run two miles and walk 30 seconds, but never really followed that plan. I started that after Mile 4 and then it was more sporadic with my walking. I finished the first loop in right around two hours.

The following pictures were taken during the first loop:
Mile 1

Mile 2

Mile 2

Mile 3

Mile 6

Mile 11

The start of the second loop went well, and starting from Mile 15, I started following my original plan of walking 30 seconds every two miles. Instead of watching the time during the Mile 15 walk break, I just walked up the long hill. I didn't remember it being that long or steep the first time around. It really wasn't that bad, but my legs were getting a bit tired. It also started to warm up. I started having the sweat drip from hat around this point and tried to remind myself that I needed to drink more often. By this point, I had drank about 24 ounces. It was a good thing I was taking the S!Caps, otherwise I'm sure my calf would have started complaining.

After the Mile 15 walk break, I felt good again up until about Mile 20. My quads started to get quite tired and sore. I kept pushing until the 20.5 mile point, but then I had to walk. My quads just didn't feel like they could take any more. Truth be told, I probably could have continued running, but erred on the side of caution and started walking. The longer I walked, the deeper of a funk I put myself into. I had let myself use the excuse of, "this is only a training run and I need to train my walking for an upcoming race" and just kept walking. Then I was sure that I lost the 4:30 time goal and started to get pissed at myself.

Since I was walking, during Mile 22 I made a pit stop at one of the aid stations since there wasn't any lines at the portapotties. At about the 22.5 mile point, I was passed by the 4:30 pacer. He asked how I was doing when he passed and it brought me out of my funk a little. I decided to try and keep up with him and just talk with someone to get my mind back into the race. When we got to a hill, I decided to walk the hill and thanked him for pulling me along for a bit. My quads were a bit sore, but not bad. I started to think of the wise words from one of my good friends, Danny. What were those wise words, "No pussyfooting." That became my mantra from that point on. I had found my second wind and realized that I still had a shot at a sub-4:30 time. This ignited another fire in me and I started passing people. It felt good. No, it felt GREAT!

It was also around this point that I started to sing some Rob Thomas and Matchbox Twenty. I can thank another one of my good friends, Brandy, for that one! She shared this gem of a video with me which is always good for a laugh:

Marathon Thoughts

That also helped to improve my mood. Mile 26 ended by run in under nine minutes and was my 3rd fastest mile of the race. The final 0.45 miles was run at a 7:16 pace, so needless to say I was defunkedified!

When I crossed the line, Susan was there to cheer me in. It was a fun race, fairly poorly executed, but I still met my sub-4:30 goal. One of these years, I'll actually run a marathon when I am truly trained for it. Well, maybe. :)

The following pictures were taken during the second loop:
Mile 14

Mile 14

Mile 15

Mile 16

Mile 16

Mile 16

Mile 16

Mile 17

Mile 19

Mile 19

Mile 20
I had hoped that they would have a massage booth at the end of the race, but it turned out that it was only for those needing medical assistance. Instead, I walked around a bit, stretched the quads, then about 10 minutes later I was finally able to sit down on the curb. I was shocked that I still hadn't started to cramp up. I waited to cheer in Joe, then we checked our finish times. All they showed was gun time, but it still showed sub-4:30 for me, 4:29:57. I'll take it!

After getting cleaned up, Joe and I decided to walk to our post-race lunch meeting spot, Thirsty Fellow. I had thought it was only going to be a few blocks, but it was probably close to two miles away. Oh well, it's good to walk after a race to keep the muscles from tightening up, right. 

The gals were texting us wondering where the heck we were. They didn't realize we decided to walk there. LOL  Thankfully, Jennifer was kind enough to shuttle us back so we didn't have to walk. Thanks, Jennifer!

At our post race meal (Jennifer, Susan, Joe, me, Mallory, and Wendy)
This was a great weekend with amazing people that I am very happy to call my friends!  Thanks to Jennifer, Susan, Joe, Mallory, and Wendy for making this a very fun trip!

Almost forgot....

Jennifer surprised each of us with a goody bag! Once again, talk about that southern hospitality! Thanks for being an awesome host, Jen!

Goody bag contents. The bottle is Serrano pepper vinegar.
Finally, here is a picture of the medal:

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