Had a little trouble sleeping last night, waking up at various points but I woke up at the first ring of the alarm. I got ready quickly and since everything was packed there wasn't a whole lot to look for or make sure I had. April went with me, as my bag carrier and moral support and I guess as my wife too. Got a place to park and walked over to the convention center. It was cold this morning, but since it was early I was hoping it would warm up a little bit as the race went and I would be okay in just shorts and the technical tee they gave us this year. Warm up went well, just did some jogging and stretching, and a few accelerations. Before I knew it we were heading to the start line.
The corral this year was set up for 6:00-8:00 minute miles, so I just got situated in the front about 5 minutes from the start. The handcycle guys started 5 minutes early, and after that was the star-spangled banner. They didn't really have anyone talking like they do at other races, usually a UT coach or something like that, but it was all business today. I was lined up between a very fast looking african on my left, and a beardy runner to my right apparently sponsored by marathonguide as he had all the gear on. (later I would find out it was the winner from 3 years ago Justin Gillette).
So they took an extra minute, and fired the gun. I nearly forgot to get my ipod ready and in the first 20 meters of the race I was jostling and looking at it trying to make sure it was recording, it paid off later on. So we are cruising along and I just stuck with marathon guide for a while as I figured he would have to have a good pace. Didn't see a mile marker for 1 or 2? Not sure what happened there and had no clue as to my pacing, and mostly I was just tucked into crowds trying to block the wind. Lots of runners were passing me, but honestly it didn't bother me. I grew accustomed quickly to looking to the right or left, taking a quick glance at the color of their bib. At 3 miles I saw a marker and my ipod said just above 20:00 or so, so I was actually on pace. We took off into a neighborhood which has rollers, lots of up and downs. Basically you burn the downhills and try to make it over the uphills. There was a guy on my heels at this point, and it was funny to see him accordion back and forth. I tried to save energy on the hills, but honestly it wasn't working.
Mile 5 came along, I think it was high 25 or low 26, can't really remember, real windy. There were puddles to dodge here as some parts of the road were covered all the way across, and about 10 feet long, so you either ran through the water, which I really didn't want to do, or you took the grass/mud. I went through the grass, but it didn't help much. Came up on mile 6 around 40 minutes, not sure if that was the 6 or 10k. I looked at the clock, but mostly I tried to stay focused, plus I was grabbing powerade or water (didn't matter to me) and so that also made it difficult to judge the time. One of my track kids who was volunteering yelled out my name here and that was a nice boost.
Now we are coming it to it, and I was conserving as much willpower as I could, the HILL at Noelton. Every year this thing is brutal. I started trekking up it and made it halfway, just tried to conserve and maintain. By the time I reached the top I felt like my chest was going to explode, and the hams took a pretty good blow as well. Still, I recovered pretty fast I entered the Third Creek Greenway which winds through a forested area. It was wet here too, and many times I had to go off the path and across some muddy grass instead of foot-deep water on the course. One marathoner passed me here, and he was moving pretty well so I just let him go. There was a lot of race left, and I figured if I had any chance of catching him, it would be later on in the race anyway. Miles 8,9,10 went through the creek and it is relatively flat, with a few really steep but short hills. I was feeling decent at this point. The good part about this area is that the wind was somewhat blocked by the trees.
Miles 11,12 were pretty good. I had a few runners ahead of me in sight, so I just made sure they didn't get too far. At 12.5 April was at the hill waiting for me, I think I ran up on her too fast as she said she didn't get any photos of me :( Now the half marathoners were coming up on me, making their final push to the finish, which was just down the hill (and back up) so I let them go and kept going were directed. There was another hill to run up for me here, this one is usually a downhill on the 5k courses run downtown and goes right by the expo center. I started chugging up this one, and a marathoner with a headband passed me here. He looked fresh as a dang daisy and said "let's go" and took off into the wild blue. I already wasn't feeling great and we were heading straight into the wind.
Someone had said I was ninth just at the split, but I wasn't sure as the halfers were there as well, so I thought maybe he was talking about them. Nonetheless I was just trying to smart and keep a decent pace. So out we go into east Knoxville, a long uphill, but not really that steep. The wind was bad now and my arms were getting cold. Passed 14 miles. Things started getting fishy at this point and I was having some serious G.I. issues, they crept up on me early around 8-9, but now they had intensified and I was really distracted. More wind and nobody to hide behind. We ran up through some neighborhoods, and honestly this was the craziest part of the course, left, right, left, left, right, left, right. I had no clue where I was going. At 16 I checked my ipod and it wasn't that great. I can't remember the time, but I remembered thinking I had slowed a bit. Coming up on 17 I thought I was at 18. demoralized. My hams and calves were starting to get tight, and the G.I. issue hit me again where I almost had to walk. This would almost be a constant for the rest of the race, even up to the final mile. I'm not sure what caused it, I guess just being cold and racing like crazy.
At 18 I looked at my ipod 2:02. A guy here came up on me, but I was struggling. He said "We are still on good pace" I just said, my stomach is killing me, and the legs ain't much better. He said good luck and went on by. I remember looking at him and thinking "he's not going that fast" and then thinking, I must look like I'm walking. Now we are heading out toward the innerstate, mile 19. No houses, no nothing for protection, dead on into the wind. I crawled. At one point, running over the bridge, I just prayed to God that I finish the race. The wind hit me so hard I almost fell down, literally. Each step was a struggle. The only good thing about this dang bridge was the view, and the fact that in minute we might be running with the wind a bit, and of course mile 20. The finish line is growing nearer, and I certainly ain't getting any faster.
It's funny there were some points where I felt great, talked to the volunteers, asked questions, chatted away. These were the parts when my stomach didn't feel like it was going to hit the pavement I guess. It was kind of like that the rest of the way, sometimes feeling great, then I'd feel like I was dying, but mostly in the legs. My hams were tight, and the calves were right behind em. At 20 I saw beardy running the opposite direction, he was roughly 3 miles ahead of me (I didn't know that) I was hoping he was only like a mile, so I could get turned around and heading back toward Neyland Stadium!
Mile 22, four miles left and it's the turnaround point. I know I only have four miles left. I think if I can just maintain I still have a chance to get under 3 hours, but at this point I'd be happy just to cross the finish line today.
At 23 I pass the opposite runners and shout encouragement to them. That made myself feel a little better. There was a water stop at this point where someone said "Go Ron", but I have no idea how they knew me? Maybe this blog or twitter, could have even be an old track kid? I dunno, but that was pretty cool they recognized me. The next mile was familiar because it's part of the 10k course for the Expo 10k I have ran before. So I knew exactly what the course was like for the last 3 miles. A marathoner came out of nowhere though and passed me here. I guess he was smart and saved his energy for the final few miles, I was almost going to go with him, but decided I would have to make my last mile the fastest as I didn't have a lot left.
Passed 24, 2:4?:?? I can't remember now, but I knew If I just held on even to a 7 minute pace I should make it. We run across Gay St. bridge and I see a runner coming back to me. By the end of the bridge I almost caught him. I passed him within the mile, he looked like he had fallen or something, but apparently he was hurt as he started walking. Passed 25, one mile to go! Aah it was crazy I couldn't believe just one more mile. I looked at my ipod something like 2:51:something, uh oh, I turned it up a little more and more, but not too much because there is still the giant hill that leads into the stadium to run up. We met up with the half marathoners, and it was a rush to pass them (no offense) as I ran by. I was almost there and dang it I just wanted this thing over!
I saw the stadium and got this crazy grin on my face, smiling from ear to ear I looked around and took it all in, I was THERE! I took off at a dead sprint and headed toward the 50 yard line. I didn't even look at the clock, i just ran and smiled. I gave the power fist as I crossed the line and then stumbled around. I could hardly walk, my legs were shaking, and but I kept moving. Photographers were trying to take my picture, and...haha, I almost fell over right when she snapped off the picture, lol. I was just wanting to get something to drink and find the bathroom at this point.
April met up with me and we "walked" to the after party at the Arena. My legs tightened up in a bad way, and it hurt to walk or stand or sit. There is no pain like it, a total charlie horse over the calves, but mostly the hamstrings. Super tight, overworked, feeling like my legs were going to explode. After hobbling 10 minutes to the Arena (it's less than 5 minute walk) I just sat down in the bleachers for like an hour. I didn't even get anything other than some gatorade that I had brought along. After the hour or so of sitting there shivering and shaking uncontrollably, I hobbled around to get some food. They actually had some pretty good stuff this year, so kudos on the selection (other than pizza and chili). I ended up getting the chili though because I needed something warm. I didn't eat but a spoonful and threw that away, and had to just nibble various bagels and granola because each time I swallowed, I wasn't quite sure if it was going to stay down. So after another half hour of sitting there I was feeling better and decided we better get going, and hobbled the 5 minutes back to the car in the cold wind.
My right hamstring seems to had taken the brunt of the damage. And when I got home I just went to sleep with a full ice pack wrapped securely to it. It was undoubtedly the hardest race of my life. I wish the weather had been a little more optimal. I mean the marathon is challenging enough the way it is, I knew that going into it. I also knew that the hills were tough, but this was like putting your legs through a meat grinder. Needless to say I've earned some days off. Tonight we are going out for my VICTORY dinner, because despite everything I still managed to run a sub 3 hour marathon. My finish time was Somewhere around 2 hours 59 minutes and some odd seconds.
7:00 am. Knoxville Marathon. 38° Mostly Cloudy 76%H SW14 mph
2:59:09, (28.11) fasttwitch 44