Friday, November 20, 2015

Thunder Road Marathon Relay Race Report

Long title.  Fun Day. Since Kona I have been drinking beer and sleeping in.  Eating bacon every chance I get.  I tried to visit every microbrewery and cidery in Charlotte and York County.   I would say I wasn't in a very high level of fitness.  So when the CEO of Epoch Universal sends you a message asking you to participate in the Thunder Road Marathon Relay, you of course say Yes! But I did warn him about my lack of training for the previous weeks.
Romare Beardon Park
My wife was running the half, so I figured that since I would be down there anyways, it would be a lot of fun.  I teamed up with the Epoch Universal Performance Therapy Race team, or EPT Racing as they are more affectionately known.  They had four teams set up and were 2 people short on the last team.  My Big Sexy Teammate Chris joined me to fill out the last team.  I know a lot of the EPT people as a ton of them swim at MSA masters.  Obviously I see them around races a lot as well.  I kind of think of them as our sister team since we both share Epoch as our title sponsor and they are so many of them around Charlotte.  Great group of people.  Every one I have met has been an outstanding individual.
Skyline View
After a few rounds of emails it was decided that Bernie would go first, then Chris, Heather, Laura and Me.  The leg distances were 4.1, 5.9, 5, 5, and 6.2 miles for the anchor.  They let me be the anchor because they thought I would be the fastest.  I did not divulge to them that my current training regimen consisted of beer and hard cider.  I met Laura down at the convention center on Friday to pick up my bib and t-shirt (as well as Chris's bib and t-shirt).  Since I was driving down in the morning I wasn't going to meet up with everyone until I got to the exchange.  Chris then swung by later that afternoon at my office to get his stuff.
Fort Mill Fast Feet Group Shot
Race morning we headed out a little after 6am.  It was my wife, and a couple of friends in the Explorer.  We got downtown and parking was pretty easy.  We parked across from the convention center there near Stonewall and Tryon.  We walked over to Romare Beardon park and met up with all the Fort Mill Fast Feet people.  They had quite a crowd at the race.  Well races.  They had people doing the 5K, Half Marathon, Marathon, and Relay.  We just hung out and talked with everyone.  It was 34 degrees, but honestly didn't feel too bad.
Just Before the Start
I walked over to the start with the girls and took some of their warm clothes.  I walked down a little bit on Graham street there and watched the start.  As the throng came through, I saw a few people I knew, but missed most people I was looking for.  I walked back over to the Fast Feet tent and dropped the warm clothes.
Early Leaders
I walked back over to the car and changed.  I got everything on I needed to race, along with a few throwaway clothes to keep me warm.  I then trekked about a 1.5 miles to Morehead and the little Sugar Creek Greenway.  I saw the leaders as I hit Morehead.  So I hung out there for a while watching everyone come through.  This was about the 8.5 mile mark.
The Throng
I saw the Fillnows and talked with them on and off most of the time I was there.  I asked them if  they were annoyed that everyone who came by called them "The Fillnows".  They said they were used to it now.  I saw more people there that I knew, including Paul, the CEO.

So my wife comes through at a pace 90 seconds faster per mile that she told me she was gonna do.  She looked great and I ran with her for a little bit.  Relax, I didn't have a gorilla suit on.  I encouraged her and she was psyched about her pace.

After she went by, I started my warmup.  I ran 2.4 miles up Kings to Hawthorne to the 20 mile mark. It was a leisurely run and I averaged an 8 flat pace, which is what I was hoping to do.  It wasn't a bad run, slightly uphill the whole way.
2.4 Mile Warmup (Run, not Swim)
As I got to the exchange point, I saw all the rest of the EPT teams there.   There was also Laura and Carol Ann who had run the first legs.  I still had about a 1/2 hour before our relay team came through.  I had 3 gels while I waited and we basically just hung around and talked.  It was nice as I got to know Jeremy, and Jason a little better as well.
Bernie . . . 
Soon the first relay came through, and they were pretty far ahead of everyone.  Then the second.  And then finally the third team came through and it was a woman to woman exchange.  (As it turns out, I believe it was a mixed team, though.)  Then I was happy to see Bernie come around the corner.  That put us in 4th, but more importantly first of the four EPT teams.
Getting it Done!
I jumped over to the other side of the timing mat and cheered him on in.  I started running and he came up on me to give me the timing chip.  I told him he did a great job, and I took the slap wrist bracelet from him.  I took off.  I fiddled with the strap a bit before I got it on all the way, but it didn't take long.
So I was flying that first mile.  I felt really good and split under 6 minutes.  One part of me thought, man this is great!  The other part reminded me that it was a downhill mile.  But then I pretty much settled in.  The 6:30 pace didn't feel too bad.  I did try to push up some of the hills.  When I got comments like "wow, good job", I felt the need to tell the person that I was in a relay.  I mean, yeah it looks awesome that I'm busting a 6:30 split at mile 22 of a marathon, but it just wasn't the case.

Through the next 3 miles I averaged 6:28.5 to get me to the 4 mile mark in 25:25.  I started to get a little fatigued at this point.  We then went through some turns and onto the Sugar Creek Greenway.  I was hoping to catch the woman in front of us and put us into 3rd place.  Finally I saw her ahead on the Greenway.  I caught her with about 1.5 miles to go in the race.  I tried to put some distance on her, but I didn't really think she would catch back up to me.
Elevation and Cadence
So the final mile is all along Stonewall Street back over to the stadiums.  It is Brutal.  It's a slight up hill the entire way (100 feet of elevation gain) and the wind was blowing in our faces.  I really felt for the marathoners.  That is a rough mile 26 of a marathon.  I was tired and I just couldn't get it going.  I looked at my watch to see my pace had slowed to a 7:10 pace for that mile. (I had averaged 6:24 overall until then.)  I was afraid that I would get caught by one of the EPT guys.
Final Turn
Sure enough, just before the 6 mile mark, Jason went by me.  I can't say I was surprised.  He looked strong (he had split a 6:37 for that tough mile).  He quickly got 10 yards ahead of me.  I gave it a little bit of an effort and kept the gap from growing.  Then it was decision time.

On the Homestretch
In every race there comes the time in which you have to make The Decision: succumb to the pain, or push through it.  Some people say they can ignore pain.  I cannot.  I have learned to file it away as simply another feeling.  Like warm, cool, bumpy, smooth, pain is just another sensation that I recognize but decide to not let affect me.

 We quickly came up to the final turn and about 300 meters to go to the finish.  Jason snuck a peek back, and I knew I had a shot.  I pushed and closed the gap a little bit.  Jason looked back again to see if I was still there.  That spurred me on.  Gave me hope.  I pushed more and got up on his hip pocket, but out of his peripheral vision.  I didn't have much gas left in the tank so I wanted to time the final sprint so that the race would be over before he could react.
So then I was sprinting like there was no tomorrow.  I felt like a gangly giraffe running, but my wife was nice enough to describe it as a gazelle.  I sprinted past Jason and got the Win.  1st Placed Mixed Division (and 3rd Overall).  It felt like all those close races in high school and college that I won.

So I stumbled around the chute a little bit, got a low five from Jason and meandered through the chute.  I grabbed some water and walked into the park.  I didn't see any EPT people at all, which I was kinda bummed about.  I found my group of people and we walked back to the car for clothes, wallets, and phones.  We headed back over to the Mellow Mushroom to eat.  The beer and food was good, but it took 2 hours.  I think they lost our order.  So we finally headed home about 1:30pm. Just in time to shower up, clean the house and get ready for the Kona viewing party.

So it was a great team effort.  I had everyone give me their expected run paces so I could figure out about when I would get the hand off.  I didn't want to miss the exchange.  The actual pace is per the race timing mats
1. Laura:  Goal 8:15 [Actual 8:11 ]
2. Chris:  Goal 6:30 [Actual 6:31 ]
3. Heather:  Goal 8:40 [Actual 8:43 ]
4. Bernie:  Goal 8:30 [Actual 8:34 ]
5. Me:  Goal 6:30 [Actual 6:33 ]

Pretty Impressive really that everyone was within 4 seconds of their goal pace.  Although we were all slower except for Laura.  Full Results Here.

So next year, I want to put together an all Big Sexy Team.  To go for the win, of course.