"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible." TE Lawrence

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Doin' the Charleston

Most race reports start at the starting line. This will have to back up to December 15. It seems about 10 UCRR members are signing up for the Frosty 50. I have been somewhat focused on signing up. I have a good base of 13 miles in for my long run. I figure its not much to ramp up in 30 days to get to 31 miles. I go to Active to sign up and it should be the normal entry fee of $30.00 plus the Active fee. Nope they raised the fee a day early. Sign up was due to increase until the 16th.

Now I'm mad a t myself for waiting until the last minute to register, and mad at Active for their error. As I'm e-mailing the race director, I get an e-mail about Charleston. They need pacers. The date is a week off from the Frosty. So I reply to the Try-Sports marketing team. I get an email back instantly thanking me for volunteering and what time do I want to pace for the full. They have slots open from 3:30 to 5:00. Here is the hotel info. Wow I have never paced before but why not. So I sign up. A great chance to be part of a first time marathon.

Next thought I really don't have a solid plan in place for the build up. I'm working on a new running group that is maxing out at 4.5 miles. I scribble out a plan that gives me a 15 mile long run on the 17th, 15 miler on the 24th, a 18 miler on the 1st and a 20 on the 8th. Anything in between will be strength runs. Christmas eve I wake up with a bit of a scratchy throat. I go out and run 15 and the sinus headache and drip begin. Merry Christmas. I hammer the zinc and cold meds for a week. I get in a 9 and a 3. I make plans to do 18 on New Years day. I figure everyone else will be hung over I'll do it solo. I get a e-mail about doing a 6 mile trail run. I figure can't hurt. I go out and do 10 of my planed 18 and get back at time for the meet up to move to the trail. As I wait I cooled down too far. My meet up no shows and I only get in 10.

I'm now getting worried I won't be ready by the 15th. So in a panic I go out and do a 3,13,4,3,20. Now with 6 days to go I promise a slow taper week. On the 11th I wake up to snow and ice. I have no option of a dreadmill. So I decide on the unusual kind of stupid and head out for a 6. Thoughts of making my own spikes go through my head but I figure I can stay in the snow if need be. I don't know how I did it but no falls on what I could have done in ice skates. My quads are burning like I just did 6 miles of hill repeats. Next day the ice and snow are still there but I need to run. I go out and do another 5 with better roads. Three days to go and I'm still worried I haven't done enough.

I decided to e-mail my pace partner to get to know him before the race. I find out hes a veteran pacer and has 49 marathons under his belt. He sends me tips on pacing that pair up with Savage. Turns out he knows Savage and has paced with him in the past. He also has paced 100 milers in for their last 15 miles. This was great but just added more stress to my brain. Do I have enough in to make it.

Race weekend. On Friday Cabarrus Co. schools cancel because of the now hidden invisible ice. This is great now my family can go with me. I talk my wife into being a race volunteer since she will have to be up at 6 to ride with me to the start.

We get to Charleston and go to the expo to pick up my packet and look around. Turns out its in a big tent in a parking lot. The floor is covered in hay. I would think this at a trail ultra not at a mid size city marathon.

The pace organizer wants us to meet at 6:30 race day. The race starts at 8:00. My wife and daughter head off to the volunteer meet up. I get to the pacer tent and freeze until race time. It's 30 deg out and we are on a corner 2 blocks from the start. We get our balloons and head to the start. ( more on the balloon later)

Mike and I mingle in the crowd and get lined up. we start meeting people who want to finish at the 4:30 pace. Mike gives them his briefing on what to expect from our support. Explains our timing will be off from the garmin. He also lets us know we are shooting for a 2 min cushion to finish at 4:28.

And were off The race started near the water front and went through downtown Charleston. I had never been there so it was a incredible expedience. The narrow streets, the riverfront, the houses and the park. I could tell this was going to be a fun run. The weather started getting warmer and the early morning chill was gone.

Like Charlotte the beauty only lasts so long. We were soon moving out of the historic district and into the lower income areas. I'm thanking the city for the Police support. A few miles of the course was definitely a bit scary.

Unlike Charlotte the course was flat. We crossed over one bridge. I was getting excited for the elevation change.

The first 20 miles were smooth with little excitement.Looking back at my Garmin history we made even miles staying between 9:30 and 10:00.

The most exciting thing that happened was after the half turn off. I had James cut me free from the balloon. I gave him the honor because he was most effected by it up until this point. If I was him I would have popped the balloon or moved in front of the idiot wearing it. It served its pourpose for the first half. But was annoying after the start.

At mile 16 I was handed a energy bar. Not a shot block or gel, a chocolate oatmeal bar. This thing was a brick. They should have saved these for the post race crowd.
I had 2 gels left and was hoping for some to be here at the aid station. No luck. I shared one with my runner James and used my last one. Still keeping a good 10 min pace. Rebecca ( Mikes crew ) was to meet us between 16-18 and had 2 more of my gels.

Mile 16 to 20 volunteers were getting thinner. A couple of water stops only had people filling cups, nobody handing out water. Most turns only had police support. Mile 20 my partner Mike was pushing someone to get to 3:20 and I was holding our pace. I look down in time to see my Garmin black out. ( Note to self. Self put the Garmin on the charger next time.) I start my back up. Iknow 6 more miles should be 1 hour. I start the stop watch on my Polar.

Caroline says she is officially farther than she has ever gone. I stick with her and James for the next couple miles.

As we cut through Riverfront park Caroline informs me we are lucky, " North Charleston usualy smells bad,today is a good air day."

Mile 21 turns into a 4 lane road with only one lane blocked off for runners going out and back. The turn around is about 2 miles out. The race organizers surly could have closed off one more lane. It made it almost impossible to run two wide. James and I decide to run on the grass. This was better underfoot and we could still pass slower runners. We lost Caroline at this point.

Mile 22 Hammer gels finally. A bit late to be effective.

Mile 23 the turn around. Only a 5k to go. My legs were starting to cramp so with almost a 2.5 min cushion to play with I send James on and walk it out waiting for Caroline to catch up. No luck she was still too far behind and I needed to keep on pace to finish on time.

I pick up my pace and catch up with James, we end up running down Mike. He has pushed 3 others to finish ahead of out projected time.

Mile 25 the out and back crowded lane takes its toll. I watch a man slam into a woman. She went down hard. She gets up and shakes off the crash.

Mile 26 James, Mike and I push into it and come down the stretch together. My daughter pops out of the crowd and runs in the last 50 yards with me. As we cross the finish line she hands me my medal. 4:30:18 gun time Perfect. How cool is that to get your medal from your own kid. Turns out she handed out medals to most of the halfers.

James was extremely happy being only his second marathon and pushing himself to a PR. Caroline finished just behind us at 4:33.

I have made the comitment that 2011 is going to be a yaer where I not only improve myself as a runner, but to give back to the running community any way possible. The reward of bringing James in was awesome. Someone who I have never met, stuck with me all morning and trusted my judgement to get him in on time. How cool is that.

All that said. Here is my feedback on what they need to do for next year. Copy of our email sent to the organizers.
Only a couple of feedback notes from the course.The port a jons at the start were 2 blocks from the start. Alot of talk on the corse about the start and finish not being closer to each other. Mile 16 I was handed a Kashi energy bar. This thing felt like a brick. I think they could be better used at the finish line. No energy gel until mile 22. I felt this was a bit late in the race. From previous races I have done these usually get handed out around 16. I had my own so I was good. My pace group needed the extra energy a little earlier. The one lane out and back was tight. I saw a collision between a man and woman that knocked her to the pavement.

My wifes experience:
From the volunteer side. There was one set of instructions given at the briefing, Told get on the bus and get off at a stop you would like or at the finish to help out there.Then once on the bus they changed. They dropped off at different stops ( some not so safe looking) and then said they would pick up and drop at the finish The bus seated 40 and was filled to about 60. Once volunteers were picked up they changed the plan and took them back to the parking garage.
No vouchers for parking were given. The free aquarium parking was not free with out the voucher. I had a runner voucher so I did not have to pay. Then you needed to make your own way to the finish, because they were not going to be able to get bus passes either. Once at the finish line there was not a contact person. There were not even people in volunteer shirts so you did not even know who to ask for help. a couple of young people did have shirts on. Many participants came to us and asked questions, because we had shirts on, but I am sorry to say I had to tell them I didn't have the answer to their question. An overall explanation of event happenings to all volunteers would be helpful We took it upon our selves to pass out the finish metals for the entire time. If we were not there they wasn't anyone there to do it at many times.
The medals were not opened so there was no time to open them for the Half. So the finishers got handed a plastic bagged medal. (really needed to be opened at an earlier date.).
We rushed to open the full ones so they could be hung around the finishers necks. (these should also be prepped ahead of time). We stayed at this area for 3 hours or so.

The post race food was good. Shrimp and grits. I knocked back about 4 bowls of shrimp. Tried the grits on the first bowl. No thanks. There was also plenty of beer. Being volunteers gave you all the Shrimp and beer you wanted. Free.

Good event I'm sure next year will see improvements. I'd do it again. there has been lots of positive feedback so far.


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