The same day that I got home from the sales meeting a friend of mine (thanks Kelly Hensen) posted on Facebook that she had an entry for the marathon in Wynne, AR that she couldn't use because her kids had qualified for the state cross country meet that next weekend. Good for them and good for me! She transferred her entry to my name and just like that I was signed up for a marathon the weekend after mine fell through. Wynne is also right across the river from Memphis so I could travel over on race morning and be back in Memphis on the same day. So at 5:45am on November 1st my wife and I were in the car and crossing the Mississippi River.
My wife wanted me to pose for a picture but this is about as playful as I get before I board the pain train.
Race day was the first cold day that we experienced in the mid south this Fall where it had gone from the 70s to 35 degrees in a matter of hours. I warmed up the best I could before I toed the line with about 500 other runners. The event is pretty low key so I didn't really have any company on my 26.2 journey. The loneliness was both peaceful and painful at times. Despite the cold I started out right on pace and felt totally comfortable as I cruised mile after mile at just under 6:00 min/ mile pace. The only problems I had during the first 20 miles were eating my energy gels. I think the cold thickened them up and made it hard to swallow. Then at mile 21 the wheels began to come off as I could feel my legs slowly turning to jello. The rest of the race would be in damage control mode.
Rolling country roads make up the out and back course.
Many times in the past when discussing the marathon distance I have made the following observation and this experience has done nothing to change my mind. All you can really do in a marathon is get to mile 20 as close to your goal pace as possible and then let the dice fall as they may. Some days you will miraculously find a second wind that will carry you through to the finish and others you will find yourself engaging in damage control just like me. In the end I believe it always comes down to a bit of luck. Even the professionals blow up and find themselves walking it in sometimes.
I didn't have to walk but my pace did slowly deteriorate as I saw my goal time die right before my eyes. (see my GPS data here) The painful part is that at that moment there is nothing you can do about it but grind on. So it went for the last five miles or so, the death march as they say. Finally I crossed the finish line in first place in a time of 2 hours and 43 minutes. My loving wife was there to cheer me on and help me get dressed when I couldn't stand (although she did put my pants on backwards.) It was touch and go for about an hour after the run as my body couldn't decide if it wanted to shut down or not. Fortunately a Mountain Dew, a massage and some donuts helped still the uncontrollable shaking and the wobbly legs.
Post race walking is hard. Pay no attention to the pants that are on backwards.
Overall my marathon experience was very positive. I ran a bit slower then I would have liked but it was my first overall win at that distance and it was my first marathon in five years (read the Badd Runner post from that race here.) I'm also very grateful that I was able to find a replacement race on short notice and stay reasonably healthy during my training. Several weeks later and I am back training steady with no lingering ailments. My goal now is to have fun with my running over the next few months until our first Badd Baby arrives and steals all of my sleep and energy.
Grind on weary runners!
Post marathon cuddles are the key to recovery.
Thanks to my lovely wife Rachel for the pictures and the support! I stole the images from her race recap on the Midtown Maven blog.