Wednesday, April 29, 2009
I have run 8 out of the 10 Country Music Marathons. I missed the inaugural race in 2000 because I didn't even think I would be able to cover 26.2 miles without getting in my car and driving, lol. By 2001, I was ready and completed my first marathon at the CMM. I missed the 2003 race because the chemotherapy for my breast cancer had worn me down so badly that I would not have been able to complete the race if I had started. But I came back for the 2004 race, and I haven't missed a year since. This year, by far, was my slowest at 5:54:30. My fastest CMM was in 2005 at 4:26:49. That was my PR for 2 years until the 2007 Andrew Jackson Marathon in Jackson, TN, where I posted an amazing (for me) 4:20:02. I'm due for a new PR, but that's not going to happen any time soon. As far as speed is concerned, I seem to be going in the wrong direction, lol.
It was hot at the start at 7:00 a.m., which is always a bad sign. Standing in corral #16 out of 33, with close to 1,000 runners per corral, was stifling. There didn't seem to be any air blowing. It took almost 30 minutes for my corral to reach the starting line. Thank goodness for chip timing. That has to be the greatest invention ever. My gun time was 6:22:07, a big difference from my chip time. But just imagine those runners/walkers who were in the last corral. It took them over an hour to get to the start line. By the time corral #33 was released, the Kenyan that won had already reached the half-marathon point. There's some perspective for you, lol!
The majority of the runners are half-marathoners, and we all run together for 11.5 miles, before going our separate routes. There were only 3,961 finishers for the marathon, but there were 22,918 finishers in the half-marathon. It makes you wonder what happened to the other 6,121 people. For one, I guess the CMM did not reach it's full capacity this year. Some of the runners were DNFs. The Tennessean stated that about 45 runners went to the hospital for heat-related problems. And I'm sure a number of people were DNSs for various reasons.
Regardless, this race is way too big for my liking, and if it was in another city besides Nashville, I would not run it. I like small races. With so many runners, I was never running alone, but I also did not have any extended conversation with anyone the entire time. I met a half-marathoner from Birmingham, AL on the bus ride from the finish line at the Titans Stadium to the start line at Centennial Park. On the bus and while waiting around for the start, we talked a lot as we had almost 2 hours to spare. Other than that, I was pretty quiet for the next six hours. Although I was constantly surrounded by runners, spectators, volunteers, and a band every mile, it was kind of "lonely" out on the course, lol.
I give Nashville and the race organizers, Elite Racing, credit for doing such a wonderful job with the weather being so hot. There was plenty of fluids (water and Cytomax) on the course, along with small packets of salt at every aid station. There was plenty of Gu, oranges, and bananas along the way. Water hoses were hooked up as sprinkler systems in several locations along the course. Spectators in the neighborhoods that we ran through came out and cheered us on, spraying us with water, and offering cold, free beer. You'd be surprised at how many runners partake of the free beer, lol. It makes me wish I was a beer drinker. I feel like I'm missing out on something, lol.
I saw the first runner go down at Mile 2 from the heat. Race volunteers were right there with her and taking care of her. Every couple of miles, I would see someone sitting or laid out on the side walk, or under a tree, cramping or vomiting, trying to find the will to go on. A race volunteer was always present, trying to help out as much as they could. Ambulances were visible, and paramedics were treating runners throughout the day. Runners soon became walkers as the day heated up even more. My friend, Jackie, who has been coming out to spectate over the years, noticed the difference from years past. She said that she saw a lot of people walking, and she had not seen that in previous years. Have I stressed enough about how hot it was, lol?
In it's 10th year, the CMM has finally given out a technical shirt instead of the cotton shirt. And as usual, the die-cast finisher's medal is beautiful. All 8 of my CMM finisher's medals are different. I like that about the CMM. A lot of races are using the disposal chips, and the CMM has joined the ranks. I have yet to have any timing problems with the disposable chips, so I'm all for them.
I'll sign up early this summer for the 2010 CMM to get the $15 discount. It's too big, but that's not really a complaint. It was my first, and you always hold a special place in your heart for your first love. I feel good running the familiar (Centennial Park, Downtown, Music Row, Belmont, the Gulch, Metro Center, and Shelby Park) and then finishing at the Titans Stadium along Victory Lane, hearing the cheers of the spectators and listening to all of the bands along the way. Music City has it going on! Just ask the 33,000 runners and walkers that register for the race every year. That many people can't be wrong, lol.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Gambier is a very small town about an hour northeast of Columbus, OH. It was about a 7 hour drive for me, but my friend Glendon rode up with me to keep me company. The race started and finished at Kenyon College, which was relatively easy to find. After packet pick-up, we found an Olive Garden close to our hotel in the not much bigger town of Heath, OH. I had eggplant parmesan, and it was soooo good. We then checked into the hotel and turned in early.
I debated about taking the one-hour early start. The regular start would allow a 7 hour cut-off. I had yet to be that slow in a marathon, so I foolishly decided that I did not need an early start. Will I ever learn? I still have these grandiose thoughts of posting faster times than I've been posting recently. I keep hoping that my faster times will magically reappear, lol.
We started on the track, doing a loop before heading out onto the rolling, rural hills of Gambier. The course was well marked with plenty of volunteers at various intersections. After about 4 miles, the course ran along a flat, paved bike path. It was really nice and scenic and reminded me of the bike path at the Tallahassee Marathon a couple of months ago. We did an out-n-back on the right side of the path and then did a longer out-n-back on the left side of the path, before doing a finishing loop on the track. It was a simple but functional course. The aid stations were every two miles. Unfortunately for me, they were serving HEED (race sponsor) instead of Gatorade or Powerade. I started out drinking it, but the usual problems I have with HEED started early, and I was forced to stick with water and gels for the remainder of the race.
On the first out-n-back portion, I ran into Jim (CA). He had taken the early start. I did not see his camper in the parking lot at the start and initially thought he had not made it to the race. He ran the Trail Mix 50K in MN the day before, and it would have been a 14 hour drive from there to Gambier. He said he decided to book a flight instead. Smart man!
I also saw Bill (OH). It had been a while since I'd run with him. He also took the early start and was race-walking along at a good clip. He told me at the finish that he was taking a break from racing as much as he's done in the past because of financial reasons. Bill's good people, so I hope he'll be heating up the roads and trails very soon.
Steve and Paula (TX) are the organizers of the 50 States Marathon Club. They are both running well and had taken the regular start as I had. I tried to keep up with Paula in the first few miles of the race, but I was forced to take a back seat to her pace. I was alone very early in the race, and that's when I started thinking that I should have taken the early start.
At about the 8 mile marker, I was running along, and then all of a sudden, I felt a pain in my calf, like I had been shot. I hobbled to a stop, examined the calf, and tried to run again. Pain. I started walking. Was that a cramp? No, it couldn't be; I don't get cramps. After a few minutes, I tried to run again. Nope, I can't do that. It hurts too badly. I pulled off the bike path and massaged my calf, and again tried to run. It's not happening, but stupid me kept up this routine for the next few miles. What in the heck is wrong with my calf? Then I started to panic. Maybe it's not a cramp. Maybe it's a blood clot.
Okay, calm down. Let's have some more HEED (yuk!) for the electrolytes, in case the problem is a sodium deficiency. Let's take some Advil, in case it's inflammation. Let's stretch and massage the muscle every mile or so, and let's walk as fast as we can.
Any thoughts of quitting at the half-marathon point vanished, as I started doing my mental math on the run. I could finish the race just walking under the 7 hour cut-off, and that's what I would do if I had to. I kept trying to run for a minute here and there to test the calf, but I pretty much walked it in.
After the half-marathon point, I was the last marathoner. The volunteer at the turn-around point at mile 19.5 had packed up and was headed to the closest aid station. He wanted to know how they had missed me. I'm not sure how that happened either. I had not left the course, not even to use the porta potties. He pointed to a spot on the path, along the fence, and told me to turn around there. The "sag wagon" (a motorized cart with 2 volunteers for radio communications) was parked at the turn-around, a painted white circle on the path. Now I would have the sag wagon behind me for the remainder of the race. Ugh!
I tried to pick up the pace. There were a couple of early starters not too far in front of me. They were walking at a pretty steady pace, so I would have to put some fire under my feet. Around the 24 mile marker, I finally caught up to them. At least now I would have some company, other than the sag wagon behind us. Allan (OH) was a fellow 50-Stater, and Lisa (OH) was completing her first marathon. We chatted for the last couple of miles, helping to take away some of the disappointment I had been feeling for most of the day.
Within the last half mile, Lisa's family joined her and walked with her to the finish. I continued to walk with Allan, and we crossed the finish line together. My finish time was 6:21:57, and Alan's finish time was 7:18:50 with the early start.
Bill joined Allan and me in the Athletic Center for post race food - soup, sandwiches, fruit, cookies, and soda. Not that I worked that hard, but I did have 2 veggie sandwiches and vegetarian black bean soup. Delicious!
Even though it's normal for me to have a slow finishing time, I'm a little disappointed but not completely down about it. I'm just worried a little about the calf. I'll continue to stretch, ice, and massage it this week. I have several races lined up for the next couple of months and would like to be able to participate. However, I'm not sure if all of these races have generous enough cut-offs for me to just walk. The Kettle Moraine 100 Mile in June will take a lot of effort (i.e., running) to be able to finish under the cut-offs, and I just found out today that I'm off the wait list for the Viaduct Trail 100 Mile in August. Surely, my calf will heal by then. I have the Country Music Marathon on Saturday. Will I have to walk the whole marathon with a messed up calf?
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Vicki Sue drove from FL and spent Thursday night at my house. We then rode up together on Friday to Champaign, about a 6.5-hour drive. Vicki Sue and I met a few years ago at the Berryman 50 Mile, and we've done several races together ever since then. She is a speedy race walker, an accomplished Ironman, and a fun person to be around. I had offered to drive my car, but she insisted that we take her SUV, and then when I offered to drive her SUV, she insisted on doing all of the driving. Therefore, it was a relaxing weekend for me, even though I felt like a bum, lol! I'll have to make this up to her some how, lol.
It rained cats and dogs on our way up to IL, but Vicki Sue took it all in stride. By the time we arrived in Champaign, the rain had cleared. It was cold and windy for the remainder of the weekend, but at least it was dry. We checked into the hotel and then proceeded to the expo to pick up our race packets. Judy (MN), a friend of Vicki Sue's, was driving to Champaign also but had not yet arrived. So, Vicki Sue picked up her packet as well, and then we headed to the fire house for our "alternative pasta party."
Vicki Sue knew Kathy (IL) and Sean (IL) from the Disney Marathon. Sean is a fireman and an excellent cook, as we later found out. Being vegetarian, I am always a little leery of attending private dinners. I don't want anyone to go out of their way just for me, but Sean had taken care of my concern. He prepared the pasta sauce without meat and had grilled chicken to add to the pasta for those who wanted it. So everything worked out well. Judy made it in from MN, and two other fireman that were on duty at the fire house that night, Randy and Mark, joined us. With good food and good company, it turned out to be a great evening.
After dinner, Vicki Sue, Judy, and I headed back to the hotel. We would see Kathy at the race in the morning, and Sean would be volunteering at the finish line.
Everybody has a "race fear," and parking is Vicki Sue's "race fear." However, there was plenty of parking on the University of Illinois campus, close to the start and finish areas. We arrived in plenty of time to calm down and proceed to the porta potties. Unfortunately, the porta potty doors were facing the start corrals, so the start area was congested, to put it mildly. I'm sure enough runners have commented about this slight problem, so I already know that the race organizers will fix this for next year.
It was cool at the start, but the sun was out - a perfect day for a marathon. There were about 2,000 marathoners, along with several relay marathoners, half-marathoners, and 5K'ers, so I'm not sure how many total runners were there. They announced at the start that 42 states were represented. So, this first year event already had a huge following.
The course is flat, running through the University of Illinois campus, a park, and several neighborhoods. Not only were there volunteers everywhere along the course, but there were probably just as many spectators as there were runners and volunteers. Incredible community support!
Another small problem for the race was the 20-ounce plastic bottles of water that were handed out along the course. I had been told that the local Emergency Management Agency had donated the water because of the June expiration date on the bottles. It was a nice gesture, but no one is going to consume a 20-ounce bottle of water every other mile. Runners were sipping what they needed and tossing the remainder to the ground. It was a waste. But as Sean pointed out at the finish, if they hadn't used the bottles of water, they would have been thrown in the trash any way because of the expiration date. There were small cups for the Gatorade, and I'm not sure why extra cups were not purchased for the water. This is why I'm not a race director, lol!
I pretty much ran the first 18 miles or so alone. I saw Ray (WI) within the first mile or two, but we didn't stay together long enough to even get a good conversation going. Within the next two miles, Dave (CO) came flying by me. Dave has improved his marathon times significantly. I need to find out his secret! He told us at the finish that he missed his PR by 2 minutes, finishing in 4:16:30! A few miles later Lois (MI) also flew by me. I saw Phil (AL) on the out-n-back section, but he was a good 6 miles ahead of me at that time. Wow . . . all of my running buddies were doing well. Good for them! I wished that I could have kept up with them.
Around the 18 mile marker, I saw Henry (WI). He was coming out of a porta potty, so if not for that fact, I probably would not have seen him, lol. We chatted for a while, but at that point, I was still feeling good, so I went on ahead. Lo and behold, I see a lady ahead of me walking and running at a very consistent ratio. It had to be Cathy (NY), but could I catch her?
Cathy runs one minute and then walks one minute, and she continues this routine for the entire race. It sounds easy, but it wears me out, lol. In December at the Thunder Road Marathon in Charlotte, NC, it didn't seem like I would finish under the 6-hour cut-off. Cathy came along, and with her one minute run/one minute walk routine, we made it in together under the cut-off.
I finally caught up to her. "Cathy?" I asked. She turned and gave me a hug. "I'm so glad to see you; you have to help me finish. My stomach has been giving me trouble." Well, of course, I would run with her! I wanted company just as much as she did. Cathy is not very talkative and when I run with her, I try to respect that. We'll make comments here and there, but for the most part, we'll run in silence - one minute running, one minute walking, until we get to the finish.
We came upon Don (NY), whom I had just seen at Cowtown a few weeks ago. He had again taken a one hour early start but was having some back problems today. Don had a fabulous finish in 7:26:51 and is now up to 40 marathons with a heart transplant. Way to go, Don!
The finish was on the 50-yard line inside Memorial Stadium on the University of Illinois campus. Very nice! Because of the chip timing, even though Cathy and I crossed the finish line together, our finish times were a little different. However, we both finished under 6 hours once again. Cathy posted a 5:55:50, and I finish in 5:57:52. Sean was at the finish line to hang my medal around my neck. The finisher's medal is very cool!
Judy ran a new PR (4:26:34) for the marathon. Nice work, Judy! She even had enough energy at the finish line to dance and cheer in us slower runners, lol. Vicki Sue and Kathy (IL) race walked the entire marathon together, finishing in 6:28:36. Way to go, ladies!
Even though we were back-of-the-packers, there was plenty of post-race food - pizza, pasta, fruit, cookies, and 20-ounce bottles of water (of course, lol). Vicki Sue and I said our good-byes and started the long drive home. Well . . . Vicki Sue drove us home, but at least it wasn't raining, lol. What a wonderful (and relaxing) weekend!
Thursday, April 9, 2009
When I got back home, I proceeded to pack up everything. I almost forgot my pillow and comforter (it would be another cold night sleeping in the car), and I went back into my townhouse to retrieve them. And then I had to make another trip into my townhouse because I almost forgot my CDs. I needed some good music to keep me awake during the long drive there and back. Get it together, girl! My mind was not into this weekend, and I couldn't figure out what was wrong.
I'm sure I'll forget somebody, but a whole bunch of my running buddies were here: Fred (OH), Frank (MN), Winston (GA), Tom (GA), Chris (GA), Kevin (GA), Scott (GA), Al (GA), Anne (GA), Rosemary (KY), Louise (IL), Amanda (DE), Kim (OH), Tammy (VA), Rob (TN), Susan (TN), Rhonda (NC), Marcia (NC), Don (NC), James and Rebecca (MD), Jim and Sue (VA), Jim (FL), Yen (TX), Russell (CA), and Mark (NC).
Julie (NC) was wonderful . . . my second pacer ever, in the same race! Although she was a 5-time Boston Marathon finisher, she seemed perfectly happy to go along at my snail pace, lol. We had such a good time, and she told me lots of stories (just as I had asked her to) and of course, I told her some, too. Although at that point, I'm not sure how much sense I was making. With Julie's help, I was going to make it, but I was tired beyond belief. We tried to shuffle some of the downhills, but after a while, we just power-walked the remainder of the loop. The sun was bright, making it hotter than the day before. Julie and I began stripping gloves and stuffing them in our jackets and tying the jackets and extra shirts around our waists, but we never stopped. We had a 100 Miler to finish very soon.
Note: The pictures above were taken from the Umstead website. I still can't format well, so in order of appearance: Rhonda (NC), Yen (TX), Jim (VA), Jim (FL), Chris (GA), Kim (OH), Blake (Race Director), Tyler (NC), Tiger, Tammy (VA), Tiger and the Start, Kevin (GA), Scott and Al (GA), Rosemary (KY), and Mark (NC).