November 17, 2013

Savannah Marathon, November 9, 2013 (still my favorite!)

I can't believe I've waited this long to tell you the story of pacing the Savannah Marathon. But because of our recovering legs, I haven't even seen my pacee yet to remind her how amazing her performance was that day and rehash all of the details. What is almost as fun as running a marathon? Talking nonstop about that marathon you ran!

Travel: Even though it was the weekend before Veteran's Day, the roads weren't too packed on our route. We left Birmingham around 8:30 a.m. and arrived in Savannah at 4:30 p.m. Hour time change and several million potty breaks in between. 

I wish my feet would get out of the way of my snacks.

Expo: Every year we've been to this race, there has been something different (read: kind of messed up) about the expo. This year when we arrived, they were not allowing people to park close to the expo. They parked people in a field a couple of miles off and then sent them to the convention center via trolley. 


As we were passing the building, I made my husband pull over and drop me off to avoid wasting too much more time. We took the trolley back, and it added at least 30 minutes of waiting and riding time. So add an extra hour to your bib pickup time if that is still in effect next year. 

The line was all the way outside the building to pick up your bib, but it moved very quickly. I'm sure if you went the day before that the lines would be minimal or nonexistent. 

Brooks earned the usual win with my kids for having the most fun booths at the expo. 


We picked up a giant wad (thanks to my son) of Sport Bean samples and searched for the Swiftwick booth, hoping to get some socks on sale. Swiftwick wasn't there (boo!), and the other sale racks didn't have anything I wanted in my size. So we were out of there pretty quickly, minus the waiting for the trolley ride. 

Photo bomber, Lara, Lisa (me), and Diane. 

Somehow Lara and I got numbers right next to each other even though we signed up at totally different times.

And the swag!

Love the Brooks shirts, but the design was so-so.

Swag bag and the few things inside (granola, window clings, and freeze gel).


Race morning: I stayed with a friend who lives in Savannah, and her husband dropped us off about 30 minutes before the race start. Just in time to run (counting it as my warm-up) to meet my Oiselle teammates. 

Ashley, moi, Holly.

Last year this race was held on the previous weekend, same weekend as New York Marathon. Because of the move to a week later, we were the first weekend after the time change, and there was a lot more light at the beginning of the race. Not good for when you have to skip the port-o-potty lines. I want to apologize to any business or resident who lives near the start line because with the crazy long lines for the port-o-potties, the world was our urinal. Road racing vs. trail racing: it feels much more taboo to drop your drawers in downtown Savannah than out in the woods. Somehow every year at Savannah, I face this dilemma of not having enough time to pee, but thankfully this year Lara gave me the courage to pee in a random alley by going first. Friends don't let friends wet their pants during a marathon. Or actually, friends don't judge friends who accidentally pee their pants during a marathon.

Start line. Bladders emptied.

My gear: Oiselle tank, black Oiselle roga shorts, black Swiftwick compression socks, my lucky Autism Speaks Sweaty BandHoka Bondi shoes.


Course: So I think there were a few changes from last year, but honestly, I couldn't tell you what. In general the first half seemed to be exactly the same, and the finish was definitely in the same spot. We still ran through tons of tree canopied streets and by Savannah State (my favorite!) in the second half. There was still a Truman Parkway segment for a couple of miles on the way out and back, but it still was definitely not as long as the inaugural year


Our temps this year never reached 70, and we were in the 50s at the start. I think all of that combined with a nice shady course, kept us cool for the whole of the race. Truman Parkway is the only significant portion of the race without shade. This course is nice and flat, and if the temps were a little bit cooler, it would be the perfect place for Boston qualifying. 

Our race: Always my favorite part of any race recap!

We were under strict orders from Coach Alex to not go above 9:00 in the first three miles. Those first three miles in a marathon are so blissfully easy and adrenaline pumped, and you can't even comprehend the possibility of how crappy you will feel after 20 more miles of foot pounding. We were having to tell ourselves over and over to slow down and run so easy that it almost made our hearts burst out of our chest with a desire to run faster. But I am happy to say that we reached that goal, mostly. The third mile was in the 8:50s, but close enough to make us feel smug about our accomplishment.

World's best 4-hour marathon pacer (Jenn in the green shirt) in action!

Our orders from coach after that were to stick with anything under 9-minute miles, and my unspoken rule was to not let us drift under 8:30. We held a pretty solid 8:35 for the middle 15 miles. We were shooting for at least a 3:55 finish, but we would definitely take anything faster. And Lara only needs a 3:45 to qualify for Boston, so of course, it was so tempting to rally for that too. 

With a crowded course, there were lots of distractions, like the guy with the mullet in the pic below. I have a hard time telling the difference between an organic mullet and an ironic one. But I'm voting that this was an ironic one.


And I'm so happy that they didn't mess with the Savannah State portion of the race. It is the best! If you are from Savannah State and reading this (not likely), thank you so much for all of those high fives. They made us run faster. Literally, I could feel our pace lagging, and every high five sped us up.


So going into this race, I wasn't expecting Lara to push the pace as much as she did, and honestly, I don't know if I was mentally ready for the challenge she was about to bring. She was not going to idle through this race. When she started, she was set to push to the finish. I let her set the pace for most of the race because I didn't want her to feel like she was trying to catch up to something (that is how I feel when people run ahead of me when they are pacing me). I wonder how this works for most people because I'm sure some people hate to lead too. I'll have to check with Lara on what her preference is (really helpful to do now that the race is over). 

She already had her game plan down for the water stops too. We ran through them from the start, and she and I both took gels at about miles 5, 10, 15, 20, and 23. We also both alternated water and Gatorade. I had all GUs because that's what was available on the course, and I could tell that my stomach did not fully appreciate those. There was some churning going on every time I took one, but it's very smart to train with GU (or have your own brand on hand) if you are running a Rock n' Roll series race because that's what they provide for you. 

Unfortunately, although we both charged our watches for a full night before the race, we both had dead Garmins by mile 18. In some ways, I think it worked out for the better (but I'm still mad atcha, Garmin!). Lara just knew that she had to keep pushing as hard as she could, and I was forced to relax my overzealous watch hawking. 


Because she was pushing the pace so hard, I wasn't the best running companion because I was TIRED. Tip: don't let your pacee outrun you. We were both pretty quiet after the halfway point, but I was really proud of Lara for holding out on putting her headphones in until about mile 20. I personally would have used them much earlier!

Hey, where is that kid's bib?

When we hit the parkway on the way back, Lara's stomach started to cramp, and we needed a quick walk break. With about three miles to go, I knew that she could still reach all of her goals if we just truncated the walk breaks. So that's what we did. We'd pick out the cone we were going to walk to, and we kept it short before picking back up again.

Those last few miles were really the only time that I felt like I was able to help her at all because the rest of the time she was pushing me! I wanted to stop running after mile 20, but I tried to keep that info to myself because I didn't want to psych her out.

Also, Lara said that she had to have her rap music to swear at her at the end of the race. Swearing can be super motivational, right?! If you know me in real life, you know that I'm not the biggest swearer, but I promised her that I would drop some swear bombs if she needed it at the end. Anything for a friend. Except when I tried it during our walk breaks in that final stretch of the race, it just sounded like Justin Bieber trying to gangsta rap, and instead of pushing her to finish strong, it just made her pee her pants a little more.

That final 1.5-mile stretch was my favorite. Lara was pushing so hard, and I knew she was going to reach her goal if she just kept moving forward. When she finally looked up and saw the finish chute, she took off like a gazelle, and I honestly could not catch up with her. Despite any struggle in the last few miles, her kick was on target!

The 3:50 pacer hot on our trail.

Although she was so oxygen deprived that she did almost go down the 13.1 chute instead of the 26.2 chute (at the finish, the two distances are divided at the end by metal fencing so you can't cross over). Because I couldn't catch up with her, I was just yelling from behind, "Wrong side. It's on the left!" Plus she was also fooled by the false finish line like I was last year. I'm still mad when I think about that, BTW. Flashback: I missed qualifying for Boston by two seconds at this race last year. So she started walking where it was painted to look like a finish line, which was the point that I caught up to her to tell her that we weren't done yet, just a few more steps to the actual finish. Savannah, please take out that fake finish line!


She totally demolished her original goal by finishing in 3:49. I was so proud of how hard she worked out there. I love to see different people's racing styles, and Lara's style is definitely push-push-push. When she saw someone in front of her, she was not content to follow them; she pushed past them every time. My prediction is that she will easily (by that I mean with a lot of hard work) have her 3:45 for Boston in the near future.


My favorite quote of the day was from Jenn (remember, the 4-hour pacer?): 

There are no easy marathons.

It doesn't matter if you are running faster or slower than you have run before, you still get to that point where you have to convince yourself to keep pushing to the finish line. I wanted to complain a lot about sore legs and side stitches during this race, but I just held it (mostly) in so that I didn't plant seeds of doubt in Lara's mind. She pushed me way harder than I would have pushed myself that day, and I'm grateful that I got to witness her marathon grit. 

Me and J-Lo at the finish.

After getting ice and Tylenol from the medical tent, we went back to cheer our friend Diane on to her strong finish. Look at that kick down the finish chute.


Special thanks to Amory, Greg (Diane's husband), and the kidlets, who were at different spots along the course cheering us on.

Amory and me with the boys.


Free hugs for marathon finishers.


Greg was smart and brought his bike to find Diane on the course.

Who needs a band at the finish line when you've got this act?


And the last special thanks goes to the best gym buddies I could ask for. They are hard working ladies who are so devoted to their families. I love them both so much! I might have quit this running business a while back if it wasn't for friends like them who inspire me to get moving every day.