Sunday, April 30, 2006

Country Music Marathon Race Report

Arrived back in Raleigh just a few hours ago, and I'm still trying to let the events of the weekend sink in. I guess the best way to sum up the Country Music Marathon is that it far exceeded my expectations -- literally.

My goal going into the race was to finish in 4 hours, 30 minutes, which would have been close to a 15 minute improvement over my finishing time in my first marathon. Going into the race, I felt like I could possibly even finish better than 4:30 -- perhaps 4:20 or 4:25 -- but didn't want to jinx myslef.

Never in my wildest dreams, however, did I think I would better my goal time of 4 hours, 30 minutes by 17 minutes, 42 seconds, but that's exactly what I did in finishing the Country Music Marathon in 4 hours, 12 minutes and 18 seconds. That's also 32 minutes and 20 seconds faster than my first marathon that I ran at Disney World just three and a half months ago.

So what do I attribute the improvement to? I believe there are several factors. At the top of the list is my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who has given me the strength and ability to run. Some of my favorite passages of Scripture are those that equate life to a race.

To remind myself of the source of my strength during the marathon, I applied a temporary tatoo of Philippians 4:13 to my wrist that I picked up from the pre-race expo from an organization called Team 413. Every time I checked my time and pace during the race, I couldn't help but see this verse. Throughout the race I meditated on this passage and prayed, especially from about mile 22 on to the finish.

Better training and preparation also played a big part in my improved time. Beginning to train for my second marathon virtually as soon as my first one was over helped me build upon the base I had already established by running faster and longer during my training runs.

I also paid stricter attention to my diet while training for Nashville than I did for Disney. With better eating habits and increased training, I toed the starting line at the Country Music Marathon close to 25 pounds lighter than I was at Disney in January. Not having to carry all that extra weight around undoubtedly was a huge factor in the improvement of my time.

I read somewhere after the Disney Marathon that every pound of body weight you lose translates into about a 3 second improvement per mile. My improvement in the Country Music Marathon lends strong support to that assesment. Based on the amount of weight I lost, my calculated improvement for the marathon should have been 32.226 minutes. My actual improvement was 32.333 minutes.

I also knew the Country Music Marathon course would be more difficult than Disney's. The Disney course was relatively flat, but Nashville is especially hilly. To prepare, I incorporated some serious hill training into my training program. When the hills in Music City got challenging I could tell myself that this is what I had trained and prepared for.

Last, but certainly not least, I attribute a large part of my improvement to the support and encouragement given to me by my family and friends. In Nashville, I had my own personal cheering section around miles 1, 3, 8, 20 and the finish thanks to Katina, Scott and Jennifer making the trip out to support me (Thanks guys!). But those of you too numerous to name who couldn't be with me in Nashville support me more than you probably realize. Your words of encouragment and affirmation help keep me motivated and believing in myself.

Country Music Marathon Random Thoughts

This year, I finally got to eat a pre-race meal at the Old Spaghetti Factory, and it was worth the wait. I highly recommend the garlic cheese bread.

If you're ever in Nashville, you should definitely check out the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Among the more memorable runners I saw was a girl dressed in a Batman costume and the man I'll call "The Blue Man." He was colored from his (bald) head to toe in blue body paint, which was color matched nicely with his blue running shorts. He kept a good pace, but looked like he would have been more at home at a Tennessee Titans home game.

Oh, I almost forgot about the guy running with the large Dale Earnhardt flag emblazoned with the number "3."

The sign I spotted in the crowd that read "Fart, you'll run faster" made me chuckle. Plus, there was a repeat of my personal favorite from last year's half marathon that read "You are all Kenyans."

Speaking of Kenyans, this year marked the first time int he seven year history of the Country Music Marathon that a Kenyan didn't win. Feyisa Tusse of Ethopia won the event in a time of 2 hours, 15 minutes and 6 seconds.

As always, I enjoyed slapping high-fives with the kids who line the course with outstretched hands.

The last half of the marathon were marked some long and lonely stretches. After the half marathon and marathon routes split at mile 11, the crowd support went from lots to little. Miles 13-17, which went through an office park, and miles 21-24 went through a city park, were lonely stretches.

I was tempted to walk on two occassions during late in the race. Both times I told myself, "Don't do it," and kept running.

My split time for the first 13.1 miles of the race (1 hour, 55 minutes) was faster than my personal best in the half marathon (1 hour, 58 minutes). Subseqently, my split time for the last half of the marathon (2 hours, 16 minutes) was faster than two official half marathon-races that I've run.

Despite Katina, Scott and Jen all swearing that I looked right at them in the crowd on my way to the finish line, I don't remember see them at all. I thought I heard someone yell my name during the last tenth of a mile and I made a quick glance in that direction, but at that point, I just wanted to cross the line.

At the race expo, I signed up for the Virginia Beach Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon on Labor Day. I'm also also registered for the Phoenix Rock-n-Roll Marathon in January of '07. I'm still trying to determine which marathon I want to do this fall. In the meantime, I've got a sprint triathlon and at least one 5K I've got my sights set on.

This year marked the fourth time in the last five years that I've been to Nashville for an endurance event. In additon to this year's marathon, I've done the half-marathons there in 2002, 2004 and 2005. Although the trip is one that I've come to look forward to each year, I probably won't go back for awhile. I'll still plan on doing a marathon each spring, but I think it's time to expand my horizons and look to run some elsewhere.

Country Music Marathon By the Numbers

2 -- Number of marathons I have now completed

3 -- Number of people in my personal cheering section along the course (Thanks Katina, Scott and Jen!)

4:12:18 -- My official finishing time

4:30:00 -- My fnishing time goal going into the marathon

4.5 -- Number of Power Gels I consumed during the race

7:00 a.m. CST -- Start time of the 2006 Country Music Marathon

8:32.35 -- Time of my fastest mile, mile 10

9:38 -- My average pace

10 -- My starting corral

10 -- My fastest mile (8:32.35)

11:37.48 -- Time of my slowest mile, mile 25

25 -- My slowest mile (11:37.48)

26.2 -- Distance in miles covered during the race

32:20 -- Total time improvement in minutes and seconds over my first marathon

131 -- My overall finishing place out of 348 entrants in my age group (Males 30-34)

307 -- Our room number at the Day's Inn Vanderbilt

822 -- My overall finishing place among the 2,226 male marathon entrants

1,125 -- My overall finishing place out 4,022 marathon runners

12,251 -- My offical race bib number

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Sounds of Music

I'm off to Nashville, Tenn., this weekend for the Country Music Marathon. Although I have one marathon under my belt already, I'm experiencing many of the same emotions that I felt leading up to my first one -- excitement, anticipation, anxeity, nervousness.

Something I've learned in the aftermath of my first marathon and in training for this one is that 26.2 miles is a long way, and you've got to respect the marathon distance. If you don't, it will bite you hard. So I guess if I wasn't excited, anxious or even a tad nervous, something would be wrong.

My training leading up to this weekend has been outstanding. I logged my last pre-marathon run this morning -- 2 miles at an easy pace on the indoor track. On the whole, my training times have been much better than my corresponding runs when training for the Walt Disney World Marathon back in January. For example, in comparing the longest runs of my two training periods, I ran 22 miles about five minutes faster than I ran just 20 miles in just a few weeks ago.
  • Dec. 17, 2005: 20 miles in 3:49:51 (11m 29s/mile)
  • April 8, 2006: 22 miles in 3:44:06 (10m 11s/mile)
Plus, I paid much better attention to my diet this time, and, as a result, I'm about 25 pounds lighter than I was in advance of the Disney marathon. Two days before the Disney marathon, I weighted 184.8. Today, two days before the Country Music Marathon, I weighed 160.2, an overall loss of 24.6 pounds.

Given my faster training times and lighter weight, I'm hoping to shave some considerable time off my finishing time from January. At Disney, I finished in 4 hours, 44 minutes and 38 seconds. My goal going in was to finish in under 5 hours. Going into Saturday, my goal is to finish in under 4 hours, 30 minutes. But of course, lots can happen over the course of 26.2 miles.

NCAA Tourney Pool Recap

Well, it's a bit late, but since I teased you with providing our office's NCAA basketball tournament pool updates that only lasted for one post, I feel obliged to let you know how it all turned out. It's hard to admit, but everyone in our office lost to the Magic 8-ball.