December 10, 2011
17th Marathon Completed
My Overall Experience ... 3 out of 5
- Really regret not planning this as an "A" race this year - probably the fastest course I've ever ran
- Good winter marathon, needs some modernizing
- Nice pre and post-race organization - runner "recovery" area was actually in a hotel
- Great heated tents for supporters along the course
- Weather was cool, but not an issue at all
- Not enough water at the end - 3 stops in last 6 miles
- Course mix-up at mile 15, local police had to correct during the race weaving in and out of runners
- Organizers way too worried about "no-headphone" rule - it was their obvious focus throughout the weekend
- Least favorite marathon medal I've received so far
- Probably least favorite shirt I've received so far, but cool "finisher" hat at the end
- After PR'ing 3 weeks prior, ran a fairly slow, but satisfying race
- Finish time of 3:38:06, 8:19/pace, but not really too worried about the clock in this one
- Based on my performance, the race, and the city - a very forgettable marathon
Finisher Medal ...
|2011 Rocket City Marathon Medal|
Probably my least favorite so far (but I'm not really a "medal guy", so not a big deal)
|Space Shuttle Pathfinder in "Rocket Park"|
At The U.S. Space & Rocket Center
|Vietnam War Memorial|
Also located in this area of Huntsville was the U.S. Space And Rocket Center. The city is one of the original pioneers of U.S. space exploration. In fact, many of the original rockets and satellites are housed here as a giant Space museum. I didn't have time to go on the tour, which would have been awesome, but I did get a few cool pictures of the rockets and space shuttle parked outside the facility. You could literally see the giant rockets from miles away on the highway. I was amazed at how big the actual vessels were in real life. And it's unbelievable how much power and fuel it takes to launch these enormous projectiles into space. All-in-all I found Huntsville, Alabama to be a very nice place to visit for a marathon. But unfortunately other than the Space Center, there wasn't much there that stood out from every other medium-sized U.S. city I've been to or lived in. It's not that there was anything bad about Huntsville, I just expected more Southern culture.
|Really Rocket City ... THIS is how you say "Hello!"|
Getting the "No Headphone" Point Across
The pre-race Expo and packet pick-up were very small, but well organized. They were held in a Conference Room at the Holiday Inn Hotel in Downtown Huntsville. The hotel was actually the location of both the starting and finish lines. It was an awesome setup because we got to wait inside the hotel until the race started, and then relax again inside the hotel immediately after the race ended.
The very first thing I saw as I entered the room where the Expo was held was a sign on the door stating "NO HEADPHONES". I'm not kidding - it was literally the FRIGGIN' VERY FIRST THING posted on the door into the marathon!!! Not "Welcome to Alabama", or "Hey Y'all", or "Check Out Our Rockets", or maybe even "THANK YOU FOR TRAVELLING TO OUR CITY AND SPENDING A LOT OF MONEY HERE" ... but a warning about the potentially lethal dangers of iPods, MP3's, or music players of any kind. Considering how I feel about this whole outdated & elitist rule, I felt it was a "very appropriate" warm welcome.
|Small Expo & Packet Pick-Up|
The race packet was small and simple, which I liked. I wasn't crazy about the technical t-shirt, but this was just a personal preference. I'm sure some people loved it. The bibs were assigned from "fastest runner to slowest runner". You had to report your most recent time and your PR when you signed up for the race, and then your bib number was ranked according to your time. My bib number was 106 out of about 1,100 - which was pretty cool because I had a "lowerish number" and got to start toward the front. But I could understand where a lot of people would have a problem with this "ranking" system. I'm always very aware of my times and am always trying to improve - but it's just to track my personal progression - it in no way is to place myself in some sort of category from fastest to slowest. I'm not sure being able to compare other runners by what number you are wearing was necessary - like, "Oh look, that guy's a 900 number, he must be really slow!" or, "Wow, she's a double digit - she must fly!" ... but hey, I think headphones should be allowed, so what do I know!
Race & Course
I had PR'd at Tulsa about 3 weeks before this race. It was really a "tactical error" on my part because Tulsa was a much tougher course than this one. (After running this one I knew I would have been a lot faster on my PR.) So from about a week after I ran in Oklahoma, I wasn't really feelin' this one. In fact I told Michael a few days before the race that I really didn't want to run it. But I had already paid so I decided to go anyway. Plus, Rachelle of "Running For Trevor" commented on my blog after I had complained about the weather, "I suggest you put on your big girl panties and go out there and make the best of it." To date, it was my most favorite comment anyone has ever left! I wondered how she knew I wore women's underwear, but more importantly I didn't want let this great runner down! So off I went.
|Wasn't really feelin' 26.2 on Saturday|
I drove into town for the race and waited around in the lobby of the Holiday Inn. It was nice and warm. It was kinda funny to hear all of the local folks talking about how "frigid" it was outside. I didn't think it was too bad.
I had driven the course the day before and when the race started was immediately reminded of how flat it was. There was only 410ft of elevation gain on the whole course. And the very few "hills" were very very gently rolling. The course was a breeze! I know looking back in a few years, I'll wish I would used this race as an "A" race for the latter part of 2011. You find many courses as flat and as fast as this one!
I'm a HUGE headphone user when I run, so I was a little concerned with no headphones for this fairly boring and uneventful marathon. I had ran a couple of marathons before without headphones, so I obviously knew I could do it. I just didn't want to. But it was never really that big of an issue.
I decided to just run an average race without being that concerned with the clock and felt really good for most of the race. I had been working on changing my running form and foot strike a little over the previous few weeks. So I decided just to see how far I could go using a forefoot strike (the Pose method). It worked great and I really only stared totally midfoot striking at about mile 20. My calves were a littler sorer than normal the next day, but that was it - everything else felt fine with almost no soreness!
|The best street in Huntsville ... maybe EVER!!!|
At about mile 10 we crossed Weatherly Road! (My name is Jim Weatherly) It was really cool ... a whole street named after me! I had seen streets with my kid's first names on them several times in the past, but never Weatherly. Several people running close to me commented on what a great street it was. They had never seen such a wonderful road and were honored to cross it during the race. That really meant a lot to me. (Or ... it was just another random street to them.)
At mile 15 we had a little mix up. As we turned back North toward downtown, all of the runners crossed into the South-bound lane based on the way the cones were set up. I noticed that a couple of cars came really close to us a really high speed. All of the sudden a police officer started weaving in and out of the runners in his cruiser announcing, "All runners need to be in the North-bound lane! All runners move over immediately!" As we did, a couple of more cars breezed by. Kind of unsafe. It wasn't a huge deal other than it broke your focus and pace a little. After this mile long stretch, everything was back to normal.
I felt great until about mile 20. I was a little faster than my PR time, but didn't feel overly stressed at all. But at mile 20 is where I usually have to bear down and concentrate on pace and keeping my legs moving quickly. As I said before, I had just went through this exercise three weeks prior ... and really didn't have a strong enough will to do again on Saturday. So I slowed down. I mean WAAAAAAAYYYYY down. At that point I was averaging about 7:20-7:30/mile, but I started charting miles at 9:30-9:45. But I really didn't care. It's not like I hit the wall or anything ... I just really lost interest. Don't get me wrong - I was tired. But more than anything, nearly 3,000 miles of running, 9 marathons, and 17 races in 2011 had finally caught up with me. I was mentally spent and just couldn't focus. I didn't quit - but my pace was very slow and all I wanted to do was cross the finish line and get back to Kansas City.
|Fast flat 2011 Rocket City Marathon Elevation - only 410' of elevation gain|
One thing that wasn't great about the race was the water situation. It was okay until mile 20, but from there on, there were only three (maybe 4) water stops. Typically in a marathon, the water stops are placed at every mile for the last 6. But not here. It was a little frustrating because I really needed the fluid. I'm sure they had it posted on their website prior to the race right next the "no headphone" rule, but if they did, I missed it.
|Idiot in an orange Finisher's Cap|
Bill and I had really slowed down but made it across the finish line. We shook hands as we crossed the line and he thanked me for "getting him to the finish". It really made the day worthwhile! I felt like I had really helped him. At the finish line, the volunteers were great! They gave us our medal and an orange finisher hat. I had never received a finisher hat for a marathon, so it was pretty cool!
The post race activities were back inside the Holiday Inn where they had a lot of great food and fluids. Everyone was great and was a nice finishing touch on the marathon! My finishing time was 3:38:06. Not a fast time for me, but it was totally fine! I had a good time and had helped a fellow runner cross the finish line a little faster than he thought he might have if we hadn't met.
... be great today!