Saturday, April 30, 2011

Country Music Marathon Review

The Country Music Marathon was the last race of my "spring season." It was my second marathon and I took a more laid-back approach to it. With teaching, coaching and life in general, I knew I would not have the time to get in the marathon-specific workouts I needed. I was able to get in seven weeks of 95 miles or more, with two of those being right at 110 miles but I was only able to get in a few "real" marathon workouts. I knew I was very fit half-marathon wise but with the lack of marathon workouts, I knew there was a very strong chance I would crash hard if I didn't race smart. My main goal was to not put much pressure on myself and try and finish as the first Davidson County runner. I knew the course would be a lot more hilly than Rocket City (and I hate hills) but if I raced patiently, I thought I could have a shot at sub 2:30.

The days leading up to the race were incredibly busy. Thursday, I was on the go from 6am until after 5:30pm and when I got home, I had to mow the lawn and then do some unpacking. On Friday, I was able to sleep in for a bit because I took a personal day from work but then had to do a ton of errands and then spent the rest of the afternoon/early evening at a track meet. Stadium food is less than ideal the night before a marathon but you just have to make do. Not to mention "carbo-loading" is mainly hype. It was a mentally draining last two days when I just wanted to relax before my race.

I've heard horror stories about how early you have to wake-up and leave to get to the marathon in time. With over 30,000 people in the race, logistics has to be a nightmare. Luckily my friend Scott Bennett, lived a little over a mile from the start of the race. This was a HUGE relief to me because that meant I could sleep in for an 1.5 hours and not have to worry about battling traffic.

When I went to bed, I felt like absolute crap. The track meet wreaked havoc on my allergies, my head was killing me, my eyes hurt and I just wanted to go to bed. I went to bed over an hour earlier than planned and Scott gave me a Claritin Liqui-Gel, which I've never used before. When I woke up, I felt like a million bucks. I ate my regular breakfast of Mom's Best Toasted Cinnamon Squares, and added an apple cinnamon pop-tart and a Lemonzest Luna Bar. Instead of my token coffee, took a 200mg caffeine pill about an hour before the race (to help speed the body's ability to burn fats for fuel, saving carbohydrates in the process).

Race-time weather conditions were almost perfect. There was barely any wind and the temperature was just over 50 degrees with it climbing a little over 60 by the race's end. Scott jogged with me to the start and I checked in my gear bag and hung around until it was time to head to the line. Luckily my race number gave me a spot right on the starting line. The amount of people there was insane. I looked over my shoulder and the street was packed for as far as I could see.

Unlike the shorter races, the marathon requires the racer to take-in fuel during the race. During half-marathons or less, my body easily has enough carbohydrates to get me to the finish line, so I don't need to worry about taking any gels or other forms of fuel. Just as Scott hooked me up with a place to stay, I had some friends helping me out with my fueling during the race. During the marathon, I like to take 4-5 GU packs mixed in empty Tummie-Yummie bottles. Scott was handing me a bottle at around four and nine miles, Ted Towse was handing me one a little past halfway and Doug Boomer was hooking me up at around 17 and 20 miles. Having people help me out during the race was a huge stress reliever and enabled me to place all of my focus on the race. It also gave me something to look forward to and helped me divide the first 20 miles into five different sections.

When the gun went off, Edwin Romero, from Colombia shot off. He was hoping to run under 2:15, so I just let him go. I was seeded 6th and I thought with a patient race, I could have a shot at third. I was hoping to not only be the first Davidson County runner but the first Tennessee runner as well (an additional $500). There was a Kenyan guy who now lives in Chattanooga battling me for that money, so I knew I had to step up my game a little more than planned. I was in a pack with a few others guys and tried to relax because I had a long journey ahead of me.

I missed the first mile marker but a guy I was running with said it was right around 5:20. This made me a little nervous because my pre-race plan was to run around 5:40-5:45 a mile for the first half of the race. However, I felt relaxed and knew the first two miles were gradually downhill before starting the uphill climbs, so it was no big deal. The second mile was even faster, with a 5:10 mile split. I was still in a pack a good bit behind Edwin, so I just tried to tuck in and be as patient as possible. In the next mile, David Kellum (eventual winner) took off and I let him go. I broke away with Brent Martin, who had a 2:23 PR and Giovanny Amador, who had a 2:22 PR, followed us for a bit before falling back. Brent was running a little faster than me but I was still clicking off sub 5:20s, so I didn't fret about it. I knew I was running too fast and the faster you run, the more carbohydrates your body burns, so I made myself run behind him. He slowly increased his lead over the next few miles but I had a feeling I would run in to him again.

I went through the first 10 miles in 53:18. Shortly after that, Giovanny passed me. I debated going with him but I knew the pace was still too fast, so I let him go. I figured he would beat me anyway, so I didn't worry about it. Brent was about 10-15 seconds ahead of me at this point and I really wanted to chase him down but I was worried about what needed to be done 10 miles down the road, not seek instant gratification. I saw Jeff Edmonds on the side of the course and he ran with me for a minute or so. This served as a good motivator and mental refresher.

Shortly before halfway, I saw Giovanny stop and grab his calf. I went by him and figured it was just the beginning of the end for him. I hit halfway at 70:10, which was a 27 second half marathon personal best. I was still feeling really good and was done with most of the hard hills, so I was really pleased. The 14th mile included a long, boring stretch with a headwind most of the way and a pretty steep hill. I only split 5:53 this mile but made up several seconds on Brent, so I figured it was now time to go for the pass. I caught him within a couple of minutes and I guess I got a little too excited because I split 5:17 for that mile.

Once I passed him, it was a long, lonely road for quite a while. I couldn't see Edwin or David at all and shortly after I passed him, Brent dropped out. I was pretty certain I had third place locked up and I was way ahead of my planned pace, so I decided to relax a little a bit so I wouldn't blow up too badly later. In the 17th mile, you run across the pedestrian bridge and run right by the eventual finish line. There was a ton of crowd support there, so it served as a great temporary motivator. After running past the stadium, it was time to head out towards Shelby Bottoms. I had a really bad race at the Tom King Half Marathon, which went down pretty much the same route, so I was hoping I wouldn't have a repeat performance.

In the 18th mile, I could tell I was running a little low on gas. I was still running pretty decent mile splits but my legs started to feel a little drained. I also started getting a little bit of a side stitch, so I decided to relax a bit. Boomer met me at just under 20 miles for my last GU of the race. I drunk a couple of sips and felt like I was going to get sick, so I just threw it down and kept on running. I hit 1:48:21 for my 20 mile split, which was a huge motivator. If I could just run 5:45s, I would break 2:24. Since I averaged 5:25 a mile up to this point, I thought I had it in the bag. I decided I would run the next four miles under 5:40 and then hammer my last two miles and see if I could run under 2:23. 2:22 something sounds a lot better than almost 2:24. My next two miles were 5:37 and 5:41, so I was on target. However, my legs were getting even more drained and I felt like I was almost running on empty. I only had a little over four miles left at this point but I had a feeling I might be about to run into that "wall" I've heard so much about.

At this point, I've been running completely alone for nearly 10 miles. However, I did have one of my Hendersonville Running Club buddies, Skip Alcorn, out there on the bike as a course guide. We really didn't talk or anything because my mind needed to stay focused on the task at hand but having him there really helped me out because it gave me a since of familiarity and I didn't feel so alone. Just when I felt like I was about to completely shut down, I noticed Edwin in the distance. I used my watch to estimate how far ahead he was of me and when I hit the 23rd mile, he had about 75 seconds on me. That's a pretty huge chunk of time but he had went out insanely fast and was finding out how cruel glycogen depletion can be. I wasn't going to attack the pace or anything, but I definitely had him in my sights.

A little before 24 miles, I could tell I was cutting down on his lead. I ran down a short downhill and noticed my quads were pretty shot. I looked at my watch again and saw his lead was down to almost thirty seconds. I then knew I could at least catch him. How he would respond when I pulled up to him was somewhat of an unknown but I knew I would at least find out.

I was quickly cutting down on the lead and he was only about 15 seconds ahead of me with the 25 mile marker in sight. When I made my final push to catch him, my stomach got a little mad at me and I had several dry heaves. When they stopped, I tried to push again and that's when things got ugly. I started throwing up and had visions of Bob Kempanien in my head. I knew puking while running would give me some serious street cred but the worst part was that it was in front of a bunch of high school cheerleaders. When I was getting sick, my legs just wanted me to stop and walk but I was so close to Edwin and since I ain't no punk, I decided I had to catch him.

I finally caught him a little past the 25 mile marker and then tried to continue to push the pace. He didn't try to fight at all and I noticed he was falling back more and more. I then knew I had second place locked up and when I hit the 26 mile marker, it read 2:23:00. I really hate running a low "minute" in the marathon. If you run 2:23:59.99, everyone will call you a 2:23 marathoner. However, if you run 2:24:00, everyone will call you a 2:24 marathoner. Just a millisecond can totally change your identity and I didn't want to run just over 2:24 and be called a 2:24 guy, so I tried to sprint. It felt like I was flying and I had a feeling I was going to be a 2:23 guy. When I turned the final corner and saw the clock already at 2:24, I knew my fate had been sealed.

I crossed the line at 2:24:10 (my final "sprint" was at 6:00 pace) and immediately laid on the ground. I stood up and tried to find Mary but my legs were hurting so badly. I sat down on the ground beside her and talked to Trent Rosenbloom (the famed Flying Monkey Marathon man) and he made sure I wasn't going to die. I decided to walk to the medical tent to see if they could give me a massage or something but I just laid there for about ten minutes before getting bored and gimping back to Mary.

I was totally pumped about my race but I felt like death. This easily surpassed last year's R.C. Cola Moon Pie 10 Mile Race as the most dead I've been after a race. What made things worse was that the place to get my gear bag was over 1/4 of a mile away and it took me quite a while to limp over there.

The next day was even worse (except for winning trivia night at Cabana's) and my legs were insanely sore until Tuesday with all soreness being gone by Friday.

After it's all said and done, I'm really happy with this race. I gave myself about a 50/50 shot of breaking 2:30 and I feel like this time is worth 2:22 or under on the Rocket City course I ran 2:27:08 4.5 months prior. Finshing in 2nd place overall and being the first Tennessee and Davidson County runner also will help with the baby bills.

It's now time to chill out before making an assault on the Olympic Marathon Trials standard of 2:19:00 at the Chicago Marathon on October 9th. I'm not sure how realistic it is but I'll find out. I might even go to bed earlier and cut down on the junk food...

Mile Marker: Mile Split-Overall Time

1: 5:20-5:20
2: 5:10-10:30
3: 5:22-15:52
4: 5:22-21:14
5: 5:25-26:39
6: 5:12-31:51
7: 5:18-37:09
8: 5:24-42:34
9: 5:18-47:52
10: 5:20-53:12
11: 5:20-58:32
12: 5:33-1:04:05
13: 5:35-1:09:35
14: 5:28-1:15:03
15: 5:53-1:20:56
16: 5:17-1:26:13
17: 5:29-1:31:42
18: 5:37-1:37:19
19: 5:37-1:42:56
20: 5:25-1:48:21
21: 5:37-1:53:58
22: 5:41-1:59:39
23: 5:46-2:05:25
24: 5:50-2:11:15
25: 5:45-2:17:00
26: 6:00-2:23:00
26.2: 1:10- 2:24:10


  1. Hi Scott. I loved your post and recap of the race. Obviously, I am not at elite as you sound, but I am trying to find out more about Nashville. Is it really that hilly? I am from texas and missed qualifying for Boston at my latest marathon by 2 min. I am looking for another race in the near future and figure Nashville would be fun, plus I have time to do some good hill training. thoughts?

  2. Nashville is definitely a cool place to visit but I'd look somewhere else if you were hoping for a BQ this spring. During the four running's of the CMM since I've been here, weather has been terrible in three of them. It was over 80 degrees for two of them with the other year being severe thunderstorms with the race being cancelled a couple of hours into it. I had a co-worker who was hoping to finish her first marathon but they made her stop at 22 miles. If you're looking for a fun city and a hilly marathon, then it could be a good pick for you.

    If you're looking to go ahead and knock out the time this spring, I've heard good things about the Carmel Marathon, which is a couple of weeks before CMM. The Portland Marathon is also supposed to be really fast, and I've heard good things about Cleveland as well.

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