Friday, May 1, 2009

Country Music Marathon

Late last year, friend of TLATL Matt D. asked me if I wanted to run a marathon with him. I'd always wanted to do one, and I figured it would be great to train with someone else. So we started training at the beginning of February with our sites on the Country Music Marathon in Nashville, TN.

The training regimen is pretty strait forward: run 4-6 miles 3-4 times during the week, and then do one long run on the weekend. The first long run should be about however long you can run at the time, and then add a mile or two onto that each week. Your last long run should be two weeks before the marathon, and should be about 22-23 miles.

Matt and I did as many long runs together as we could, but it became apparent as we got to the 18 and 20 mile runs that he was running at a faster pace. I didn't want to slow him down, and I actually did better running solo anyway, because I wasn't trying to keep his pace. So we decided to run the marathon separately.

We arrived at the race together and split up into our respective "corrals". Each runner is assigned a corral based on their projected finish time, and each corral is released 2 minutes after the previous corral. The idea, of course, is that runners spend as little time passing other runners because the faster runners are ahead of them and the slower runners are behind them. In crowded races that makes a big difference. Just like the previous two half-marathons I'd run, though, there were plenty of "walkers" and people who were obviously not going to finish in their corral's projected time. It's pretty frustrating having to make your way around them. But enough complaining...

My assigned corral was 13, based on a 4:20:00 projected finish (just under 10 minutes / mile). Unfortunately my start was delayed by a... biological issue... coupled with some poor execution by the event planners. Probably not something everyone wants to read about, but in retrospect it was kind of comical. I ended up leaving with corral 18... and off I went on my first marathon.

I have a running playlist in my iPod, but didn't feel like getting to that right away. I'd also enjoyed listening to podcasts/audiobooks on my long runs, as they helped me maintain a consistent pace. But I felt like music... and felt like Gomez' "Bring It On".

I hit the first water stand around 2 miles in and chugged two Cytomax's (some athletic drink that must have paid more money than Gatorade to sponsor the event). The high for the day was going to be 87... way higher than anything in which I'd trained, and generally really hot for a marathon. I decided before the race I'd get at least 2 cups of Cytomax or water at each of the 20 water stands throughout the race.

I also passed the first of 27 bands playing along the marathon route. Pretty cool...

In the commotion of passing people in the first crowded few miles, I didn't actually see a timer at any mile markers until mile 5. I checked my iPod as I crossed the starting line and noticed I was starting 35 minutes late. Some quick math I realized I had done the first 5 miles in 40 minutes. Whoops. I felt great, but that was way too fast for my projected time. I was able to catch the mile markers in the next five miles, and was going about 10 minutes / mile... and felt great.

Next album... Led Zeppelin's "Houses of the Holy" (skipped No Quarter). Around mile 11 the half-marathoners peel away and head for their finish line. It was nice to get some space!

I completed the first half of the marathon in 2:05. A little faster than I probably should have, and I was starting to feel the effects of the heat a little. I put on a podcast in hopes that I could slow my pace a little. The first half of the marathon was pretty hilly, but fortunately the second half wouldn't be too bad.

My gut was starting to churn some more, and as frustrating as it was, it was becoming evident that I wouldn't be able to hold it off the whole race. By mile 18 my biological issues were calling again and I had to duck into a Johnny on the Spot for about 8 minutes (I kept track on my iPod and figured I would be justified in subtracting this from my finish time). Back on the course and feeling a little rejuvenated, I turn to "Paul's Boutique". Haven't listened to that album in a while... it's still great ("Drive By Eggings - plaguing L.A.! - 'Yo, they just got my little cousin, ese!'").

Around mile 20 I'm pretty tired, but I know I only have a 10 K to go. Saw a great sign "UR Feet Hurt Cuz You Kick Ass" on the sidelines. The many people cheering at all phases of the race is great...

My longest training run was a little over 22 miles and as was the case with each long run, I never felt too bad until I eclipsed the distance of the previous run. Then you really start to ache. It's not your lungs at all, like in a short race. Basically everything from your hips on down is just sore, and if you try to push it a little harder your legs yell at you.

Mile 24... Pain, but the end is so close! Lots of people walking at this point, which is actually helpful, as it's a psychological lift to pass them.

Halfway through mile 25 I start "Working Man" by Plants and Animals to carry me in. It's a great running song.

At mile 26 I see Matt and his wife Lisa (who snapped the photo) and their friends. Time to pick it up and cruise on into the finish. Lots of cheering fans on both sides, a fun experience to finish!

After the race I ate a huge meal, took a nap and then went to an old friend's for dinner that night. They asked me if I would ever run another one, and at that point I didn't think so. Up to the race I was planning on it being a "one and done", as most doctors will tell you that being a distance runner is horrible for your body. But by the next day I had the itch to do it again. I can't imagine that I'll do another soon, as it takes too much time away from my family to do these too often. I may or may not ever do another one, but I at least hope to maintain my fitness level - over the course of training I dropped 17 lbs. that I definitely didn't need!

And of course, a special thanks to my wife, who supported me throughout the training and never complained once!

Oh, yeah, I finished in 4:46:44 (that's before subtracting my "break"). A lot slower than I was hoping for, but I'm happy to have completed it. Matt finished in 3:55:48, his best time in the 3 marathons he's run!

Here are the winners (surprise, they're Kenyans!). Just before this picture was taken, the M.C. said "How can you be a Kenyan and NOT win a marathon?"


Austin said...

Awesome. Great work Roller.

Gene said...

Good on ya to the both of you.

Ryan said...

Yeah, Congrats Rollo, that's awesome. I'll be interested to hear if you decide to do one again.

Oddly enough, I've come across some running articles recently that I thought you might enjoy reading:

P.S. Have you really been told by a doctor that long distance running is bad for you? That's crazy talk!

Gene said...

good point about the health of long distance runners. Long distance running is certainly good for the vast majority of the body. It is not good for certain parts of the body, including the knees, lower back, and perhaps some other orthopedic areas. Of course, if you have underlying medical issues (such as a heart condition) running a marathon may also be a bad medical decision, especially with temps in the upper 80s. That said, I certainly can't recommend against running to a trim, fit 30-something person unless he loves swimming or elliptical even moreso, or if he has knee or back issues.

It's exercise, for crying out loud. Matt and Matt should not worry about physicians arguing against running from behind their desks, desks with a secret stash of Ding Dongs in the third drawer on the right.

Marty said...

Well done Rollo, and well done Rollo's'd think that maybe they could have spent a little more money on the podium. Like one that maybe human beings could fit on...It looks like they just gave these kenyans a cardboard box to stand on and some kid pasted a 1, 2, and 3 on there with his glue stick...

Ryan said...

Marty, that's funny. I looked closer at that little awards platform and couldn't stop laughing the longer I looked at it and the guitars they had, etc. Funny.

Rollz, I clicked on the link you provided for the winning time. If my math is right, they ran approx 5 minute, 7 seconds miles. Is that possible?

I broke a 5 minute mile once and then puked. I can't imagine running that fast for 26 miles.

Actually, it Depends.

Roller said...

Thanks, guys. Ryan - those links you provided were great! I am especially interested in the idea of training yourself (myself) to front-strike. I am a major heel-striker.

I checked out some reviews on the Nike Free... they seem to be mixed. I am interested in cheap/simple options, too.

I still crack up when I look at the expressions on the 2nd and 3rd place finishers in that photo.

Coovo said...

Way to go Matts. I can personally vouch that the first half of that course if way hilly. I ran the half in Nashville last year. It wasn't 87 so though. I can't run a half mile now.

The best part of Nashville is that the race is on Saturday so those that only ran a half can go out and party. Which I did.

The biggest thrill was meeting good ole'Abe Lincoln. Thats right. My posting picture is now me, my friend Amy and our 16th president.

Marty said...

the faces are great, and its like in someone's back yard or something, there's no backdrop, or anything, just a couple of mini guitars, three kenyans making uncomfortable faces on a podium that the race organizer's uncle made...and yes, i also belive that running five minute miles for any 1 to 2 miles, will make you puke

kevin said...

great job rollo, and great story. that was a good read.

but what's the picture on the platform under the first place guy? I can't make it out. where's jack bauer? i need to zoom and enhance!

G. Smith said...

nice work Matt, and great write-up - although I don't know why anyone would run that long, next time give me a ring, I'll loan you my car or bicycle if you need a ride.

what do Kenyans with bad knees do?

Marty said...

So, Obama wants to cut $17 billion in government programs and Manny tests positive for a gonadotropin...I feel a post coming.....