Sunday, December 13, 2009

Race #52 - Thunder Road Marathon - Charlotte, NC

John Liptak and I headed down to Charlotte on Thursday night at 5pm so not to have to make the 10 trip in one day. Our plan was to drive until about 11pm and pick out a hotel and spend the night. We hit 11pm just south of Petersburgh, VA so we decided to get off and find a nice hotel. There wasn't much around, but saw an Economy Inn. The place looked like the Bates Motel so we got back on he road for another hour. We were still jacked from the Starbucks so we drove another hour and found a Holiday Inn Express in South Hill, VA. Nice accommodations for 59 bucks.

We got up early on Friday and went for an easy 2.5 mile jog. It was surprisingly cold and we started to re-evaluate our plan for what to wear for the marathon. We were hoping to go with just a short sleeve and the Bob's 50@ 50 long sleeve but temps were going to be in the low 20's at the start.

We arrived in Charlotte at 1:30pm, checked in the DoubleTree Hotel and then headed to the expo. Not a bad expo for a small marathon. I met a guy who came up with an ingenious idea to showcase your medals from your favorite races. More to follow.

We got a nice technical long sleeve shirt and a few other freebies. From there John and I headed to Charlotte-Douglass airport to pick up Frankie T. Frank hasn't been able to run race with me this year and felt bad so he decided to run the 1/2 marathon. Frank and I ran together many days when we worked at BT/DB.

After picking up Frank we headed out to dinner and a big bowl of pasta. We also stopped at a few bars afterwards since it was still rather early. Two beers and we were all in bed by 10pm.

Temps were in the 20's at the start so we added an extra heavy layer but went with shorts. The hope was that it would be warmer towards the end of the race. Frank's hotel was very close to the start so we met him there and did our "business" in comfort. With ten minutes to the start we headed out. It's was great to be near the start. We got right to the front but backed away and hung with the sub 3:30 pace group.

John and I had just one goal in mine and that was to qualify for Boston. John needed to run a sub 3:30 and I needed a sub 3:35. My plan was to go with John and run a sub 3:30. That way we would keep each other company. Frank had no time in mine so we figured he would run the first 1/2 with us and then say bye bye. We were all doing 7:45's for the first 5 miles and felt very comfortable but it was clear early that the course was going to be up and down for much of the race. Frank pulled ahead of John and I by mile 8 and so we were on our own. We ran through some beautiful neighborhoods early in the race and the crowd support was surprisingly strong for a small marathon.

John and I hit the halfway point at 1:41 so we both on target for the sub 3:30 but rolling hills were coming more frequent. They weren't very big but they were steep and often. By mile 15 John and were still together but I was feeling it a bit. John was extremely encouraging and he kept me motivated, but the hills were starting to get to me. I think it was a hill at mile 17 that I just couldn't keep with him so I told him to go. I knew at that point my sub 3:35 was in trouble unless the course turn favorable, meaning downhill. As John slowly pulled away he looked strong as I was struggling with the hills.

At mile 20 there was brick wall made from plywood with a door to run through. They wanted you to hit the wall as you passed through it. As I did, I was hitting the wall myself. I hit mile 20 at 2:38 which meant I needed to run the last 6 miles in just under 1 hour. I knew it was going to be tough since I had taken a few walking breaks up the hills. I picked up my pace but once again felt it as I ran up another small hill. I was getting a bit disoriented so I took another walking break. There were a few of us struggling and we tried to encourage each other to keep going. One guy told me to take it easy, "it was better to finish then to end up in the medical tent". I took his advice and just concentrated on finishing. I couldn't believe I was feeling this bad.

At mile 24 there was one last big hill (Hawthorne Hill) which I pushed hard to make it. I made it to the top and found a woman handing out cookies. My stomach was filled with GU but I needed to eat something. I ate 3 of the best tasting cookies ever.

Two miles to go and the sub 3:35 a distant memory so I wanted to just finish strong and running. I was just hoping not to see John at any point. As I mad the turn to the finish i heard Frank call my name. I think I gave him a smile and crossed the line at 3:46:40.

I was disappointed but I knew I gave it everything I had. I saw John and he told me he ran a sub 3:28, so at least one of qualified for Boston. He said he was fading fast at the end but held on. Those last 7 miles are a killer.

I guess overall I was happy that I finished with a decent time, but was dismayed that I was a mess at the end. I trained hard but maybe I just ran too many races to realistically think I could be fresh for this race. I also think the course was way to hilly for a good time. It looks like I will have to find a runner friendly course if I want to run Boston.
I had a great time hanging with Frank and John. We ate well and had a few $2 beers at various gin joints. I hope we can do again in 2010.

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