Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Grand Rapids Half Marathon

For about a half hour on Sunday morning it felt really early. By 5:00 am though we were on the road and that felt normal enough not to be early. The wife and I rolled into Grand Rapids without event around 6:45 (only one potty stop). Parking took about 15 minutes, but that wasn't bad considering the volume of vehicles. We landed in a lot that ended up being about a half mile from the check-in (YMCA). That went pretty smooth, got a free pair of socks along with the long sleeve tech shirt. I was most concerned with finding the start next, so that took a bit. By the time I knew where to go we had just enough time to get back to the car and then back to the start. Logistically speaking, not the best way for me to have organized that. It didn't end up mattering though. With 10 minutes to spare I said goodbye to my dear wife who would act as an intrepid videographer for me, and made my way to the participant line up.

I stopped moving forward in the throng of people when I saw the 4:44 pace team sign just ahead of me. My idea was to run with them as long as possible. I came to the race hoping for 2:18 to 2:25 finish, having run most of my long slow runs at a 10:30-10:40 pace. So 2:22 didn't sound half bad, assuming they would finish as advertised. The race began and we in the back waited, then walked, then waited, then walked, then ran, then waited, then walked, then ran, and we were off. This was the largest race I had ever run in, but that just meant more occurances of the typical things that happen in races (passing people that lined up too far in front and getting passed by people who line up too far in back). The 4:44 pace team was running a very comfortable pace on the first couple miles 10:36 & 10:46. I can never get myself slow enough on the first mile when I run alone. Around me people were shedding clothes like crazy. It had been around 45 or 50 degrees at the start but I was too excited to be cold. I knew I'd be running soon enough and glad for the temps. Somewhere after 2 miles I caught up to the front of the 4:44 pace team. I could hear one of the leaders was keeping a running dialogue (pun intended). He was giving advice and telling stories that were supposed to be shocking. He meant well but after 7 or 8 minutes I questioned how long I'd be able to listen to him. Mile 3 went by in 10:34, which happened right at the first spectator viewing location and second water stop. Getting a boost from seeing my wife I took the opportunity pass the 4:44 pace team and see if I could stay ahead of them. As soon as was a couple hundred feet ahead of them I overheard a woman talking behind me who was also very glad to be rid of the talkative leader of the 4:44 pace team.

The next segment of the race was hills, no real killers, just a few rollers. After the first up I came upon a dude who happened to be on the board for the race. We ended up talking for a couple miles. I told him my running back story and it turns out he was originally from the area I work in. He was really encouraging and knowledgeable about the course. His pace was also a little quicker than mine but I was glad to have him, mile 4 10:23, mile 5 10:21. Somewhere in there we came on a water stop that he needed to check some things out at so I thanked him and bid him adeiu. Shortly after that was the next spectator viewing location. I looked for my wife but couldn't find her. I found out afterward that she had gotten a bit turned around on her way to this location but she did eventually make it, but when she saw the 4:59 pace team she figured I was too fast for her. Mile 6 must have been more downhill, 10:16. The next mile was mostly in a little park or was it a subdivision. I remember lots of winding sidewalks and winding streets. The whole thing looped back on itself a few times and ended being mile 7, 10:25. The next mile was back to rolling hills, 10:33. There was another spectator viewing area, but I didn't plan on seeing the wife due to it's remote location. Then there was the gummy bear stop, which I declined. Up until this point I had been drinking my own gatorade, but I was beginning to run low. So from this point forward I made sure to snag at least a cup at the aid stations.

Somewhere in there we were routed onto a 5 foot wide paved trail that would end up lasting a couple miles or so. I witnessed a woman pull off the trail ahead of me and she looked like she was going to puke. That didn't make me feel to good. I had to pass her fast to avoid sparking my own evacuation. Mile 9, 10:35. The full marathoners took a left and I was pretty happy I didn't have to. Fatigue was starting to set in. It felt like I wasn't even lifting my right leg off the ground. I thought for second that I might have to slow to a walk, but I was able to fight through that noise. Mile 10 was the toughest, but not the slowest at 10:45.

Luckily I got to see my wife again at the next spectator viewing area. She was dutifully operating two cameras at once. It didn't make me any faster, but it made me feel stronger. I gave her a couple big hands in the air to signify 10 miles down and I was on my way. There was also music at this point which was nice. The course looped back on itself after the spectator viewing area, so I was suddenly familiar with my surroundings.

Mile 11, 10:51 and then Mile 12, 10:55. It was getting easier mentally to keep myself going cause I was getting closer to the finish. As we got closer to the finish we got more crowds as well. Finally mile 13, the slowest 10:58. I saw my wife at the last second before I passed her. The finish line reeled me in like a fish given over to life on the dinner plate. I was exhausted but happy to have accomplished my goal. My time was 2:18:56, about as good as I could have possibly imagined.

I shook Don Kern's (the RD) hand and someone with a large camera took my picture. Then I collected my medal and staggered off to find nourishment. There was plenty of free food and beer at the finish line. I reconnected with my wife and we swapped our unique accounts. After a bit of consumption I went in search of the free showers at the adjacent YMCA. Of all the amenities I probably enjoyed this the most. The rest of the day I was a little tired, a little sore, and absolutely ravenous.

Here's a video of the event. I just realized I put the wrong date on it, but I didn't save the project so I won't be fixing that. It's my first time editing and my wife's first time manning the camera, can you tell?

Monday, October 6, 2008

All blood present and accounted for

I was pretty disappointed about missing the Lansing half marathon. I ended up choosing the Grand Rapids half marathon on Oct. 19 as my make up. It wasn't the only factor, but having the race director comment on my last entry was a big nudge.

Running has gotten back to normal since the surgery. I ended up taking 5 days off. It appears to have been enough as I am not experiencing any negative consequences from running. With planning this new race I figured I only had time for one more long run and it was last weekend. So this past Saturday I knocked out a solid 12.18 miles, 2:08:32. Not my fastest at this distance but it was more about completing without taking any damage, so mission accomplished. The plan is to run my short runs during the week and one long run next weekend of 6 or 7 miles. Also I'm back on the bike as of Sunday and that appears to be in order, so there will be plenty of miles to log there too.

I appreciate the well wishes. If, when and where to comment back still stymies me in such a way that I may look arrogant/ignorant, so thanks to everyone.