Saturday, January 21, 2012

Charleston Marathon Recap

You know, most bloggers post things pretty quickly after they happen. Obviously I'm not like most bloggers.

If you've followed me on DailyMile or Twitter since the Marine Corps Marathon, you probably know that I've had quite a struggle with motivation, and getting excited for the Charleston Marathon. I am still yet to put my finger on it yet, but motivation and excitement really didn't ever show up like I expected. I suppose waking up every single day with a difficult marathon plan staring you in the face got old.

While in Charleston for the Francis Marion Half in September, the group of three couples decided it would be a great plan for us all to do a race at the Charleston Marathon! So we decided that's what we were going to do. When the final deadline came to sign up in early December, I signed up me and my wife (who was still hurt at the time). Me for the full, her for the half and expected my friends to register for their races as well.

I was quite frustrated at signing up for Charleston, because I paid $10 in "processing fees" for our registrations. This made me ridiculously upset. I sat here and looked at a post card with all their rates for 3 months, and nowhere did it say that there would be an additional 6.5% of random "additional fees". Its like buying a race entry through Ticketmaster or something. (Ticketmaster is the Devil)

This is considered strike one for the race.

As I circled back with my friends, I found out that they were all either injured or now not planning to I found out that my wife still couldn't run because of her nagging Achilles injury. So it was just me. With my horrible training up to that point, I decided that I'd just downgrade to the half, and not pressure myself.

Now I should warn you at this are about to take a look into the unreasonable psyche of a crazy person. It is not pretty. You have been warned....

I logged on to the Charleston Marathon site to "downgrade" (read: I've already paid an additional $20 for a race than I'll be running). When I get ready to click "save" on my change, the site asks me for another $10 DOLLARS. I hit the roof. Let's recap.

Registration fee for the Full-$85
"Processing fee" for the Full-$5.35
Registration fee for the Half-$65
"Processing fee" for the Half-$4.35
"Processing fee" for the DOWNgrade-$10

I feel like I'm hemorrhaging money to this event. Now comes the crazy person part...

"Rather than giving them the extra $10, I'll just run the full marathon out of spite."

I actually said those words. 13.1 extra miles. Poor training. FOR. TEN. DOLLARS. Are you understanding now the kind of person you're dealing with here?

This is strike two for this race

Training went ok. I did get a 20 miler in, but it was about 6 weeks from the race. I did as much as I could based on what I was dealing with on motivation. Off to Charleston we go. My friend Greg who had not trained much at all said he would run with Christy's bib for the Half. The two of us were quite a pair...both of us unprepared, just going to run We loaded up the van arrived to the "expo" near the finish line of the race in North Charleston.

We walk in, and I truly cannot describe what we saw. It looked like an old school revival tent. My wife described it as if we had just went into a rodeo. Why? Because there was a haze of dirt everywhere. This tent is dimly lit over uneven grass dirt ....(do sprained ankles and marathons go together?).
There was a thick dust covering all of the merchandise everywhere. The poor guy selling sunglasses spent his entire expo wiping down his glasses. This is not the kind of environment you want to be breathing before 26.2 miles.

We wound our way around the perimeter to get into the line for the packet pickup. Except the line was only for the half marathoners. No line for the full. They had the registrations separated by alphabet, but each station was taking anyone who would come up. So the person working the A-G line, would leave her spot to rummage for somebody's name beginning with a V. Complete chaos.

Just as I was ready to leave, the event got a shot in the arm with some real classy business. A full orchestra decided to show up..

Ode to Joy.. gets better...then the ballet starts...
Yes. An orchestra AND a ballet in a dusty rodeo tent.
By this time I've had enough, and decided to pack it in for the evening. We arrive in Mount Pleasant at our friend's house and make plans for the next day. After a great meal and a good night's sleep, it was race day! Forecast was in the high 30's to start, rising to the low 50's. Perfect, right? Well except for the winds, which were 10 MPH with gusts up to 20 MPH.

We were able to park right by the race start...which was a miracle. I got right out and got into the port-a-john lines which were huge. (Dear Race Directors, you CANNOT have too many Port-a-Johns).When the gun went off, guess where I was? Yep 2 people away from getting into the toilet. It was a chip timed race, so I tried to calm myself down and chill out that I missed the "official start". It wasn't like I was going to set any records today anyway. When I got to the start, there were runners still filing through the start line, so I just hopped in with my pal Greg and off we went. I wished him good luck, and I started working my way through the crowd.

Charleston is one of the most beautiful cities in all of the world in my opinion. Some people say that the best way to really get to know a city is to run 26.2 miles through it. None of those people work for the Charleston Marathon. Within the first 3 miles, we got to run past Rainbow Row...and the battery, which is gorgeous. The sun coming up over the harbor is just a beautiful sight to see. We then take a hard right and leave town, just as quickly as we can. What comes next can only be described as lonely, desolate, destitute, industrial blight, and the color gray. We ran through every ghetto neighborhood in the Charleston Area. When we weren't in bad parts of town, we were running alongside railroad tracks beside abandoned warehouses. Now how many spectators do you think were out and about in all of that?

By the time we reached about mile 11, the half marathoners peeled off, and it REALLY got lonely. I thought about that $10. I was about to earn it. We spent the next couple of hours running through a series of out and backs through neighborhoods, deserted parks and around public school buildings. We'd have the occasional high school marching band. It seemed that every time I passed one, they were finishing up, or on break.

Around mile 16 or 17, I caught up with one of my running group buds from our Saturday Morning group runs. We chatted for a while, and it helped to get my mind off of hurting so bad. I was in bad shape. My strategy had been to stay in the low 9's for the entire race. I had bounced between 9-9:15 through mile 16.

An angel visited me at mile 17. A real live angel...and no I'm not hallucinating. I saw my wife who gave me my next nutrition bottle, and she ran with me for a half mile or so. She told me that Greg had finished the half with a new PR and that I was doing great. I told her that I was actually dying. Like "Remember where the will and life insurance policies are" dying. "Kiss the kids for me" dying. She laughed, and told me I could do this, gave me some encouragement, and told me I'd see her at mile 20.

I could make it to 20, that's all I had to do. 3 more miles, and I could see her again. Thankfully during those 3 miles I had something to help keep my mind off things. I call him "Squeaky Shoe Guy". It almost sounded as if he was wearing wet sneakers on a tile floor. EVERY. STEP. I couldn't shake this guy. Squeak, squeak, squeak.How was he dealing with this annoyance all this time?!? It was making my ears bleed.

Honestly I can't remember if I passed him, or he passed me, or if I just dreamed him. Over those next three miles my pace slowed to a high 9's pace (9:41, 9:48, 9:57). I think you can see where this is going.

By the time I hit mile 20, I was toast. I did have my fan club to run with a while. First Greg ran with me for a bit, telling me about his half. In less than a half mile, I saw Greg's wife Jacci and our friend Amy. They each took time running alongside me, trying to keep my mind off of the stupidity of what I was doing and how close I was to being finished. Amy kept commenting on what an amazing thing it was that I was running a marathon. Honestly at the time it felt a bit foolish.

About the time I saw Amy and Jacci we began the "Death Slog". I really didn't know how far this out and back was, but with every step I was hating it more and more. Amy ran with me for what seemed like a mile, and I could see runners coming back in the other direction as far as I could see. This is just cruel. Time was out the window at this point (as if it was ever truly a concern) I just wanted it to be over. Mile 21-23 10:10, 10:19, 10:22. I started eating everything that people were handing me..which at one point I think  was a bear claw. (Did I dream that too?)

The death slog is strike three for this race.

We reached the end of this double fenced road on an industrial complex at mile 23.5. Oh good, now I have to run it again. BONUS I had not noticed the wind on the way out, because it was at my back. Now I'd have to run the last 3 miles with it MY FACE.Miles 24, 25 12:33, 11:50. I had begun walking on and off. This had to be the most miserable end to a race in the history of humankind.

Christy joined me somewhere on mile 25, and was running with me (against her physical therapists orders). I looked at my Garmin and estimated that I was about a half mile away, so I took everything I had in me and put it into that last last 0.46mi-8:16 pace.

Between the wind and the terrible course, this was not a good day. I finished about 20 minutes off my PR. That's what you get when you don't prepare well I suppose.

I knew going in that there were out and backs, and that last year there was some negative feedback about the course, and that in the 2nd year the organizers would have done more to add entertainment along the awful parts of the course. Apparently that was not the case. I learned my lesson. If you have an out and back as the last 10K of a race, I. WILL. NOT. RUN. IT. Live and learn I guess.

I've got some work to do on my marathons. In each of the 3, I've wilted like a rose in the heat of the summertime on the last 10K, no matter the speed I'm running. Particularly feeling it in my hip flexors once I get over 3 hours. I'm taking some time off seeing a Physical Therapist, and see about hitting another full in the fall if I have a good training cycle. I'd just like to run one with a consistent pace. Patience was never my strong suit.
Me and my "Angel"
All in all, despite my glass half empty sarcasm and humor, I had a great weekend with some truly special people, and spent a few hours of it on a marathon course. I am not joking when I say that I would not have finished this marathon without my wife, my friends, Greg, Jacci, Amy and John. They all did everything they could to keep me going out on the course. It is a humbling feeling to know that you are loved so much by people that they'd take their time and get involved with a stupid endeavor with you. Heck, mine even made signs saying "Suck it up buttercup!" That's the mark of true friends. I'm a lucky matter what the clock says.