Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Kiawah Island Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 5; 38th Edition 
984 miles raced; 350 yards swam and 9 miles biked in 2010
Race: Kiawah Island Marathon
Place: Kiawah island, SC
Miles from home: 2195 miles
Weather: 30-50s; Rainy
When you are pretty darn sick for one marathon and you do another one 5 days later, chances are pretty good you are still going to be pretty darn sick. That is, more or less, the background of this particular race at the Kiawah Island Marathon.  However, fortunately, I went from horrific throat pain to your simple headache, fever, and runny nose.  Honestly, that was a major improvement. At least now I could drink on the course!

But the race forecast called for just about a perfect day for running which made me smile.  If that didn’t meeting some fantastic people prior to the race during my book signing definitely did.  Races with smaller expos are always ones that play right into my wheelhouse. Without so many distractions or vendors next to me trying to get people to check out their balance all the time, I can actually carry on conversations with people. You get to know even more about them than usual. You get to reassure some runners that it is smart not to run with a stress fracture. Others get to inspire you with stories of how they are competing in the Athletes with Disabilities division. Still many more quickly become fast friends, in spite of my sniffling and occasional sneeze.

When the day came to a close on the expo, I was ready for bed. I had hoped that I would miraculously feel better prior to the race but it simply wasn’t going to happen. I had thoughts of running a sub-3 hour marathon which would have been nice to book end this year with times beginning with 2 (having started the year at the Mississippi Blues Marathon with a 2:59) but I knew that was not going to happen.  Or I didn’t think it would anyway. As the guest of the race I was treated to a wonderful hotel stay just a few minutes walk from the start of the race (and the end as well) and was happy to see so many people I had met were also guests there as well.  However, I could not mingle as I knew I had to try and sleep.

I did actually go to bed relatively early but sleep was another thing entirely.  I had a terrible time breathing, do not recall exactly what they were but had horrible dreams and woke up in a sweat repeatedly even though I was freezing. When the alarm went off I gave serious debate as to whether to not even run.  But as this was my first marathon ever in South Carolina, I could not pass up the opportunity.

Leaving the comfort of the hotel, I noticed rather forcefully that the perfect forecast we were given was anything but. A steady drizzle was coming from the sky and runners were clad in many a garbage bag.  I turned around, went right back up to my hotel room and changed into a warmer shirt and a pair of gloves.  This remains my best decision of the entire day. It would have been trumped if I had simply stayed in bed.  But alas.

Back outside, I could not have been more happy with my decision to change clothes. The rain picked up and whenever the wind blew it was downright chilly. But, as I said to others around me, it is the horrible rainy ones which make for the good stories. No one cares about your perfect course, perfect weather, perfect legs marathon.

First 10k: 13:33, 6:59, 6:58, 6:36, 7:09

With the half and the full starting together on this course which would be two loops of the same 13.1 mile loop for me, it was nice to know you would rarely be alone. As the gun started, the rain picked up.  I was wearing the sunglasses on my head as purely an optimistic move but sliding them down allowed my eyes to be protected from the rain drops. I could tell my fingers were already cold and numb as I missed hitting the button on my watch to get the first mile split. However, I could see that I was right about on pace for a sub-3 hour marathon and thought it would be great if I could hold it. I picked up the pace a little bit but was thrown off a touch by the one mile marker on the course which was probably about 100 yards off. Sure enough, approaching the 6th mile the difference between the two allowed me to calibrate my running and I still had an outside shot.

Courtesy of SportPhoto
As I neared the turnaround near the 7th mile, I saw the lead marathoner already ages out in front of everyone else. If he knew how to run races, and wasn’t just going out too fast (as were a few other runners, who in spite of running rather frequently do not seem to have any head about them when it comes to running- it was like they were running from dangerous theme music) he was going to own the course on this day.

Ending Loop One: 13:43, 7:03, 7:03, 6:51, 6:57, 7:00 – Elapsed Time 1:30:30

As we turned around and went from running on the road to the more narrow and windy bike path next to the road (to avoid the runners coming at us in the opposite direction), the rain which had been steady but unspectacular for the first 6 miles, picked up a little bit.  On a dry day, the weather would have been really ideal for racing.  Even the cloudy skies would have been wonderful.  But the addition of the rain made for slightly less than ideal running conditions.  However, the volunteers throughout the race and at the aid stations never wavered in their enthusiasm or support.  It is on days where you are miserable in weather for a few hours that you truly appreciate the hard work and dedication of those who will probably be out in the conditions far longer than you will with far less to take home from the day.

Courtesy of SportPhoto
I joined (or had formed around me- I can never fully understand which happens first) a group of about 4 or 5 runners, including one who looked like he was wearing bedroom slippers.  A barefoot runner he mentioned that is not for the wet weather he would be completely unshod.  Someone mentioned how hardcore he was and he philosophically answered that if we knew how pleasant and easy running without shoes is, how we with our feet encased in rubber and cloth were the true hard core ones.  A second passed and in unison we all answered: “Yeah. No.”

Two of the runners asked me what I was shooting for and I said right around 3 hours would be great but given the conditions “upright and official” would be just fine. Both guys said they were shooting for 3:20 but wanted to go out at a 3 hour pace for the first half so they had a cushion. I shook my head. Has this EVER worked? (Unfortunately for both of these fellas, it did not even come close.)

Nearing the end of the first loop for me, and the end period for the halfers I began to have the inevitable person sprinting by me happy to be done and the slight longing to be done myself.  When the course volunteer saw my yellow bib indicating I was doing the full, he finished pointing a slew of runners to the left for the half finish and me, solo, to the right for my second loop.  “But I really want to go that way,” I pleaded.  The crowd thought I was funny.  Too bad I was telling the truth.

Final Turnaround at mile 20: 14:26, 7:04, 6:51, 7:36, 14:06

All day my fingers had been missing the button on my watch and they did so again here on the mile which I have always considered the most important of the marathon: mile 14. After the big rush of completing the first half there is almost always a slight let down. If mile 14 feels good and stays in tune with the plan of the whole race, it is a good indicator of how the rest of the day would go. However, at mile 15, I did hit the watch and saw what the rest of the day did have in store for me- slower miles.

A few defiant miles kept me semi on pace but soon I was running completely alone and settled into a much slower pace. I rebounded with two good miles as I could smell the turnaround just around the corner.  The rain had finally relented, the wind had only occasionally blown in unkind ways, and I had a runner in my sights. This combo gave me a slight jump in my step and I soon caught the runner in front of me.  We ran a few steps together as the leader went blazing by in a time we could only hope to run.  “He’s going to beat us by like a minute per mile you know?” I said to my new running companion. He laughed and said, “True but it is nice to see someone new win the race. The guy who won here a few times previously was a jerk.”

By then, my pace differed from his and we parted ways. I could see the tight female race was going to come down to the end. One of the women in the first three looked to be faltering while mere seconds separated two others. The only bad part about running marathons is that you don’t get to watch them. Then again, the worst part about watching marathons is wishing you were out there on the course running them!

Heading Home: 7:26, 7:23, 7:23, 7:29, 7:12, 7:07, 1:33

Courtesy of SportPhoto
As I began my turn I saw I did not have quite the lead on other runners behind me as I had hoped. By mile 21 one of them had caught me and was threatening to leave me in his dust. Well, the ground was soaked so maybe I should say his mud. After a rather disappointing mile time for the 20th and 21st miles, I decided I would stay with him for the remainder of this mile and see what I had at mile 22. Digging deep and ready for a mental boost from how fast I was running, I was shocked to see I ran the exact same time as the last mile when we passed by the clock. I pause here to mention how wonderful it was to have a clock at every single mile.  This rarely happens at races of any size, let alone a race which usually hovers around 900 runners. It should be mentioned how great this was and appreciated by those in the know. But at this point, I was more concerned with how I was going to handle the final four miles.

With the twisty nature of the course, I knew we were about to run into some problems near the end as us marathoners would soon run into the tail end of the slower half-marathoners. With the narrowing path in some circumstances, near collisions were afoot. The race itself had placed many signs out on the course that specifically said to only pass on the right, not to run there, but as with most signs, it could not possibly apply to me. Nevertheless, many runners were as courteous as can be expected near the end of a trying adventure.

Even as I did not feel faster, I could see that the runner who had passed me was not putting any ground between us. This is always a huge mental boost and right after mile 24, I decided to pass him for good.  Next thing I saw was a few other marathoners who were faltering. With not much real estate left, I decided that runny nose, hacking cough and rainy-soaked feet aside I was going to try to turn it on best I could. I passed no less than four runners in these last miles including one who subsequently was in my age group, a mere .2 of a mile before the finish.

While I did not get the sub-3 I was hoping for, I had turned around a late race swoon, finished 29th overall and crossed in a respectable 3:05:41 for my 16th marathon of the year. Very oddly, this was the second 3:05:41 I had run, the first being at the Erie Marathon at Presque isle in 2007. Coincidentally, that marathon is also a 2-loop course, on an almost pancake flat surface which was also run in heavy rain.

At the post-race bash, which is really something more races should try to incorporate into a long weekend (if they have a Saturday race, which helps a great deal) I was blessed to be the featured speaker at the dinner.  It is so enjoyable to speak to people prior to a race but after, when the accomplishments are done and the glowing smiles of so many people happy with what they have achieved surrounding you, it is a wonderful feeling. This was a top notch race all around and I can see why so many people make the trek here again and again.

I fully expect to be one of them!


Detroit Runner(Jeff) said...

Awesome run. Looks like fun!

Unknown said...

Thanks for the reassurance, Dane! I'm so embarrassed that I cried, but so happy that I met you and that I was there to support the girls! You are an inspiration!

Laura said...

I've actually had some good success with the "bank some time in the first half" approach... though I agree that banking 20 minutes is ridiculous. When I say "some time" I mean like 2 minutes :)

Congrats on finishing strong despite the rain!