November 7, 2012

Savannah Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, November 3, 2012

I guess it's time to suck it up and write this race recap for Savannah RNR. This race was my maiden voyage of marathoning last year, so it was great to be back and giving it a second shot. It was a completely different experience physically and organizationally, meaning that RNR and I seemed to have our crap more together this year.

Expo: The greatest part of the expo was that we made it on time this year, and they didn't have to extend hours because of traffic issues. There were no problems with traffic on the way to Savannah (last year it was backed up in many spots), and once we arrived in Savannah, we headed straight to the expo with another dose of very little traffic. We arrived about about 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. The expo closes at 7, so we still had plenty of time to grab out stuff and look around.

The only significant line of the day was at packet pickup. That line threaded through three halls and almost all the way back to the entrance. But it seemed to move quickly.

One of the three hallways we waited in line.

My two oldest kids (ages nine and seven) came with me to the expo, and we spent an hour and a half in the Brooks carnival at the very beginning of the expo. I even took the time for Brooks to analyze my (and my son's) gait. They have you run barefoot on a treadmill and record your gait and measure the pronation in a freeze frame. Very cool.


Thank you, Brooks, for confirming that I do not, I repeat, do not overpronate and do not need stability shoes. It's a sensitive subject because I ran in stability shoes for a year at the advice of a running store that "analyzed" my gait, and I feel like wearing them messed up some things in my running body. So I was bitter about it for a while. These days I like to take every available opportunity to prove that I should be wearing neutral shoes. Take that, anonymous gait analyzer.

I've never spent that much time at the Brooks carnival at my past Rock 'n' Roll events, but it was surprisingly fun with kids. We played games, watched the circus show, and won some bandannas (disappointing prize to my kids -- "Why did they give us a crappy piece of fabric?") and hats.

"What is this crap supposed to be?"

We also discovered that skee ball is skewed to help right-handed kids win, which I only considered when I watched my left-handed son play.


At least left-handed people are all creative geniuses. Even though I'm right handed, I have a prejudice against my own kind and an irrational (but maybe not!) obsession with left handedness and the amazing minds of left-handed people. Two of my sons are left handed, and I probably love them more.

At least these guitars are for lefties and righties. 

Despite the skewed games, my kids were all for staying at the Brooks booths until closing time, but I pried their tiny fingers off the skee balls and forced them into the rest of the expo. Also, I whispered in their ears to grab as many free samples as they could.

Put that stick down and grab some more free samples, kid.

We flew through the rest of the expo. It was getting late, and some of the booths had already closed down. Seriously, Publix, you couldn't hang until 7 p.m.? I needed that free noise maker.

Race morning: The race started at 8 a.m. Does anyone remember what time it started last year? For some reason it seemed darker and earlier at the start last year. With the 8 a.m. start, I was able to sleep in until 5:45 and easily make it out the door by 7.

With all that time, I didn't have to skimp on pre-race eating. I really only ate the chia seeds, Builder's bar and Steaz drink, but I like to put just-in-cases out on the counter too.


And I had plenty of time for buns. Yes, a little crooked, but I didn't care cause they were tight. That same rule can apply to so many facets of life. Gross, except that.

Bun check because I had no mirror. My kids think this picture is gross because you see my ear.

We had no issues with my friend dropping us off, and we only had to walk a couple of blocks to the start.

I waited by the start line to meet my running partner, and once we found each other, we started a search for bathrooms. My main complaint about this start was the tiny number of port-o-potties. The lines were crazy long, and after 30 minutes in line, I decided to forgo them and head to my corral. Yes, I tried to find a squatting place, but there were too many people around. The only private place I could find looked like someone's front porch, and I just couldn't handle being that rude.

After the national anthem, the race started quickly and efficiently. We even started a few seconds early. We were supposed to be in corral 4, but I think we accidentally slipped into corral 3. Either way, it worked out perfectly because we had to do virtually no weaving. Perfect, perfect start.


Weather: High for the day 73F/ low 48F. I only needed a jacket to throw away at the start. Last year I needed pants and a jacket. By the end of my race, the weather was in the 60s. I would definitely have preferred 10 degrees lower, but luckily there was no rain. Also the sun was shining for the whole race, so I'm very glad I brought my sunglasses.

Course: They made same changes to the course this year, which definitely upped the course ante for me. They took out some of the more industrial areas in the beginning, and there was less of the parkway (like a boring, boring interstate) running. They also added this cool section where you ran through the Savannah State campus and around their track. That was definitely one of the highlights of the second half of the race. The students there were so pumped and cheered so dang loud. They forced high fives on me when I could barely (mentally) lift my hands and made human tunnels for us to run through.


I would still prefer that there be no running on Truman Pkwy, but the majority of the course was shaded and pretty darn awesome for running. It's a mostly flat course with a few little bumps and street after street after street of gorgeous canopied trees.

See the amazing trees shading us, and I was possibly about to spew here.


There were lots of spots in the second half where you run out and back so that you pass other racers as you're running. Sometimes I hate this in a race and find it demoralizing, but in this race, it didn't seem too terribly bad, maybe just because I hadn't hit my wall yet when faster racers were doubling past us.

And of course there are the bands playing along the course. They were plentiful as usual with the Rock 'n' Roll races, and I especially loved the ladies singing soulfully (and very loudly) by Savannah State, the marching bands, and the Celtic band of bagpipes.

The worst part of the course for me by far was the fake finish line. It was a yellow strip (with some words about the marathon painted on it) the same width and height as a finish line painted on the ground, but without the chip timing pad. So you round the corner to the finish and run over what looks like a finish line, but wait, wait, no, keep running because that was the fake finish line before the real one. I found that very irritating at the end of a race. Even more so because maybe that slowed me down for the two seconds I needed for my Boston qualifying time.

My race: The race started off amazing, as most marathons do. I was running a comfortable pace with my race partner (we were shooting for 8:12 pace to hit a 3:35 race), and we kept having to remind ourselves to slow down so that we could stay on pace longer and not burn out.

Running with my partner. Did that guy on the right just rip his shirt open Hulk style?

Also, keep in mind through this that I still had to pee. No, I was not going to stop and pee, so I just pulled a Chrissie Wellington and told myself that I would just let it fly (or drip) and worry about it later. I think of all parts of this race I'm most proud of running for almost four hours while I had to pee. A great moment for me personally, but a bad moment for the seat in my car ride home and the people who drove me home. Note for next year: bring a towel.

I was also worried about timing water stops while running with a partner, but it seemed to work perfectly. We would both grab our water and then meet up after the stop. It was a pretty flawless system in my mind, and I was plenty hydrated. Even with taking every water stop, we stayed on pace. Practicing at faster speeds during my most recent half marathons also helped. I only choked on water once or twice, so I feel like my fear of water stops is fading.

At the halfway point, I split with my partner and kept moving. It was definitely much less fun without her. I started my music, leftover from here, and tried to keep trucking at the same pace.

Here are the splits. I was actually surprised to see that I held my speed until mile 20 because I really felt like I was slowing down before then.


Somewhere around mile 18 my feet started cramping, and I just kept running hoping that the cramping would stop. It would subside and then come back, but never bad enough that I had to stop running to stretch it, although I'm sure it caused me to have a wacky gait.

Because I had stayed on my 3:35 pace (pretty much), until mile 20, I mentally told myself that I didn't need to kill myself in the last 6 miles. If I just kept running, I knew I would make it under 3:40. Also, in my marathon mind, I calculated that I could run 10-minute miles and still make it. Obviously, I should never rely on my marathon-mind calculations. They are never accurate. Of course I couldn't run that slow for the last 6 miles and still make it, but somehow I had convinced myself. This is when having my partner by my side to tell me how stupid my math skills are would have come in handy.

Blissfully unaware that my dreams would be smashed by two seconds. 

Because of my poor math skills, I even walked through one of the last water stops. Looking back I am mad at myself for that because it wasn't necessary, and I definitely lost more than my two seconds strolling along the water stop filling up with Gatorade.

As far as other fuel, I decided to take in my gummies and gels every five miles to stay ahead of the game. I had Shot Bloks at miles 5 and 15, and I had GU at miles 10 and 20. Plus, I drank Gatorade whenever possible unless I had just taken a gel or gummy. In my next race, I want to add something else to eat at mile 23 to get me through the last few miles.

At the end of the race, when I was busy convincing myself that I was a math wizard, my legs and body were really fatigued. I was so ready to stop running, but I just kept telling myself that I would be so happy that I finished and qualified for Boston and could just have fun at my next race.

If you haven't already seen the results, I crossed the finish in 3:40:02, according to the race clock. Two seconds too slow for Boston. With the old rules, it would have been enough, but with the new rules, it's not enough. I knew it was close as I finished because with a quarter of a mile to go, I looked at my watch and realized that I was really close to hitting 3:40 on my watch. So I picked it up to my max speed to the finish. Or double finish if you read the Course section above. If only I would have had brain function earlier, I could have figured that out. So I blame the two seconds on poor math skills and the inability to speed up fast enough for that last quarter mile.

Oh crap, I just miscalculated for the last 26 miles.

But 3:40:02 was over a 6-minute personal record for me and over a 23-minute improvement from my time on the course last year. So there are some things about which to be happy. If you're into joy, which after missing my BQ by two seconds I kind of wasn't.

Oh, and guess what happens when you sprint (or try to give it your all) after three and a half hours of running and having to go pee. That's right, you totally wet yourself. Again, I need to remind you here that I am not ashamed at all that I peed my pants as I was crossing the finish line. I consider it super hard core. Next step to running rock stardom: poop the pants at the finish line.

Definitely peeing my pants right here.

After I crossed the finish line, I was spent, and I knew if I sat down I would pass out (and my shorts wouldn't be able to air out). I also knew friends and family were waiting just steps away, but I couldn't bring myself to walk the few yards to them. So I stood and leaned against a fence and drank water, then chocolate milk, then more water. I was in some unsuspecting people's pictures, like a creepy lurker in the back drop. They must have thought I was a prop because they posed in front of me and never noticed me standing there, all still and  looking like an exhausted statue.

Post race. Yes, I will fall down if a gentle wind blows.

Finally, I got up the oomph to collect some more snacks and head out to the field. This is where I made my race best friend. At the end of every race, I meet a random stranger and make friends immediately. You are both on the high of having finished a race, and in my case because of my leg cramps, I fell over on the ground in front of my new BFF, making it easy to establish an instant proximity connection. Do you do this at races? At the end of every race, I always find at least one person to make my new BFF. I love that part of racing.

Every time I look at this I laugh because of that banana. Well played, banana, well played. 

Fast forward to my recovery, it is now the Wednesday following my Saturday race, and my soreness is all pretty much gone. I stretched a lot after the race on Saturday and walked a couple of miles yesterday. And of course I drank my tart cherry juice that I now swear by for recovery. Because I wasn't at home, I didn't ice, but my bum ankle has been fine. Icing is the one step I would add back in if I could time travel.

Finish: This year they had plenty of snacks and drinks at the finish line. Last year, I was very disappointed to find the snacks depleted to a few bananas at the end of my marathon. This year, all the booths were stocked, and I was very happy to get my hands on some grub, even though I mostly wanted to vomit.

I love the open field at the finish for chilling out with family and friends after the race, and we stayed for a bit while they were announcing some of the winners for the day at the main stage.

Our race crew. 

Swag: The medals were a cool design this year, but they seemed small with very cheap ribbons. Mine already started unraveling in one spot after wearing it for an hour on race day. And I always hate that at Rock 'n' Roll races marathoners and half marathoners get the same medal with just a different color for the ribbon. Give me a giant medal to scream I ran twice as far or give me death. Not really, but it would be nice to differentiate in some way.


The shirts are also the same for marathoners and half marathoners. I really liked the bright green color this year, and I always like the fit of the Brooks shirts, though they were too short for my taller running partner.


I'm not sure which of the swag in my bag was from the expo and which is was in there when they handed it to me, but I like that I have lots of snacks for when I need to eat my feelings after missing my BQ by two seconds.

Overall: This was my first marathon last year, and I loved it then despite some of the organizational missteps. This year, the race and expo were better organized than last year with almost as many people. Savannah is such a beautiful city for running. If they could subtract Truman Pkwy from the marathon route, it would be a perfect course with lots of beautiful old buildings, canopied trees and no hills. My friends live in Savannah, so we're looking to make this race part of a yearly tradition of meeting up with my friends who all used to be our neighbors in Florida. The price for the marathon starts at $95, but they often have coupon codes for $10-$20 off that price. This isn't a race that will make you feel good about helping out a charity (very little of the proceeds go to charity, and the organizers are a for-profit company), but if you like lots of people and consistent swag, Rock 'n' Roll races are a good choice for you. They also tend to cater to the half marathons, making the half course much better (i.e. no Truman Parkway) and giving them equal swag to the marathoners.