I woke up a little before 5 Am and took a quick shower, ate my bagel and then met up with Buck and Steve to head down to the race. Once down to the site, we just walked around, met up with other runners, took pictures with my fellow Warriors and headed to the start line. I lined up in corral 7 and waited. Last year I was corral 11! So I had higher expectations!
These miles always go by pretty fast because of the crowds of runners and the crowds of spectators. I really was paying attention to my pace because I knew I did not want to start off to fast. I felt comfortable running but once I looked at my Garmin, I knew I needed to back it down some if I wanted maintain.I was running with a friend at that point and several times we both had to slow each other down to stay within our paces. We had already gone down Beale Street, down Riverside Dr, which goes along the Mississippi River, which is one of my favorite parts of the race. My 5K split was 31:16, which was a 10:06 pace. I was feeling good and on my pace.
I was still feeling good as we passed the Pyramid, a Memphis landmark and as we turned in to the St Jude campus. The campus last year was a very emotional spot of the race for me. All the families and children of St Jude outside cheering on the runners was something I will never forget. This year it was different. I had the St Jude singlet on , so I think more people were yelling at the singlets than I noticed last year, so that gave me an extra boost. The whole section was different than last year. Once we got out of the campus, I knew we were at the 10K mark. Mile 6 was my planned stop to eat something and get water for 1 minute, and then go again until mile 10, just like I did in training! I had to add a bathroom stop in at this mile marker though, which I do not think hurt my time that bad. I did end up splitting away form running with Steve at this point, which allowed me to focus on my race a little bit more. My 9.3 mile split 1:36:54 with a pace of 10:26, still on track!!
Mid way, 13.1:
After you hit the 9.3 mat, you start heading back towards downtown and I always remember seeing the heart on the top floors of LeBonheur Children's hospital. It sort of guides you back to where you finish. I was hitting the water stops as I planned, eating what I brought and overall feeling pretty good. I was starting to get passed by a lot more people that were trying to kick it in to finish the half marathon, but I did not let them phase me cause I knew I had a ways to go still. One thing that stood out to me was that I did not feel so alone once the "Halfers" turned to go to their finish line and the marathoners continued on. Last year, it was like a ghost town, but I was further along this year than last, which helped me mentally. I knew I was coming up on the section of the route that I hated, so I just tried to prepare my self mentally to get through the next few miles until we turned on to East Parkway. My 13.1 mile split was 2:18:49, a 10:36 pace. I felt good about this cause I was using a 2:25 mark for the half, so that would get me under 5 hours. Still on track.
This is basically through the midtown area of Memphis, and I hate this part. I am not sure why, but I dreaded it the most. The route along Peabody seems to last forever and a day. Another bathroom stop, more nutrition and water at every stop was my game-plan. I hit a wall at 16 last year, but I knew I was going to make it through that marker. I was at mile 17 when I hit the 3 hour mark, which was good. I was still on my pace I wanted to be, I knew I would soon be making one of the final turns, heading down East Parkway soon. Last year at this point I was so out of it mentally that if I could have found a cell phone I would have called my wife to come pick me up, but I was still feeling strong. I think having a better idea of the course helped me a lot as well. I had hooked up with the 4:40 pace group at this point and ran with them through mile 20, which was helpful because it allowed me to gauge my pace better.My 19.6 mile split was 3:34 with a 10:54 pace. I knew I was on my way to a sub 5 hour race.
Mile 21 was when I saw some familiar faces! My wife and youngest son Jesse were there cheering me on. I was not expecting them to be so that made it even nicer to see them and their sign. I had thought my wife had said they would be around mile 20 and when I did not see them I figured something just didn't work out, so I was really happy to see them at 21. I stopped and got a kiss and a high five and kept on going, determined to keep running. Mile 22 came up on me and that's when I felt the dreaded twinge of calf cramps! I slowed down a bit, walked a little and even stopped to stretch out my calf, and it seemed to help for a minute, but it got to where I could only run for about 2 minutes before they locked up again. So I would run and walk, run and walk. I drank 2 waters at every stop, emptied out all my nutrition I had left and tried to force myself to run just a little bit further. I knew I needed to keep going to hit a sub 5 and I tried. The 2 minute runs soon became one minute runs, then 30 second runs, then it was light pole to light pole through mile 25. Once I hit 25, I knew I was on the cusp of a 5 hour finish and I just gritted my teeth and tried to push through the cramps, hoping I could run them away,but it didn't happen.
Once you hit 26, there is a slight uphill you make before turning into the stadium and I had just turned on the back road leading into the stadium when my watch hit 5 hours. I wanted to finish strong though, so I tried to wipe the pain off my face and run through the finish line, but of course, I got another cramp right there about 20 feet from the finish line and I was running like a hobbled old man. I made it through at 5:01:46, with a pace of 11:32. This was an improvement of 1:06 over last year! That's a 1 hour improvement, not a 1 minute improvement! BOOM!
184/245 in AG
I got my finisher's medal (which is seriously blinged out) and then tried to climb the steps out of the infield of the stadium. BAD IDEA! Climbing steps was not good for me. I only made it halfway before I had to sit down and then fight off serious cramping. Eventually I made it to the food tent where I grabbed some pizza, cokes and some other goodies, including a box of Krispy Kreme donuts!
Jeff Irvin from Dangle the carrot fame! Jeff, his wife Annie and friends were super cool as we got to hang out at the hotel lobby and talk about the marathon and future races.
While I was running, I really questioned myself about whether or not I wanted to try to do an Ironman. If you had asked me Saturday or even Sunday, I am not sure what I would have said. Right now I am only about 40% sure I want to go on and try Redman next year after this race. It was tough, but I know I have a sub 5 in me. I know it! So we will see. Right now I am going to enjoy the holidays, I am going to reintroduce myself to Stella (my bike) and get back into the pool. Even as I am writing this, thinking about 2013, I have some lofty goals. I had at least 8 PR's this year and swam/biked/ran more than ever, and I feel good.
As soon as I get all the pictures, I will have a post with nothing but photos of the race. Thanks for reading!