The original intent of this trip was to pace the Soldiers Marathon 100 miles SW of Atlanta Georgia. I had airline miles I could use but had to book my trip on Monday - Friday, no weekend travel days. I left on 11/11, and returned on 11/14 so I was able to spend both Saturday and Sunday in the Atlanta area. I planned on pacing the 3:45 group at Soldiers, and Sunday just messing around in Atlanta. That was of course before I found out about the possibility of running a double!
My flight to Atlanta on Veterans Day 11//11 involved a 2 hour layover in Denver, during my layover I got on Facebook and contacted a fellow 50 State Club member who was running Soldiers Marathon, Cheryl Murdock. She told me she was planning on running Peachtree City 50k the day after Soldiers Marathon. She also told me Scott Ludwick was the Race Director. I happened to be reading Scott's book "A few Degrees from Hell" for about the 5th time. Before I ran Badwater 135 this year I read and watched videos of anything and everything pertaining to Badwater 135 I could find. I found this book to be the best book available (in my opinion) on the subject. This book profiles many of the 2003 Badwater 135 participants, their experiences, good, bad, or indifferent. I thought it would be the perfect book to read post Badwater and take care of my boredom during the long flight. Now that I had experienced this amazing race a lot of the stories would really come to life! Reading "A Few Degrees from Hell" during my flight really brought back a lot of memories. It lit a flame in my soul and reassured my reasoning for wanting to run this AMAZING race again.
Cheryl gave me Scott's email and I promptly emailed him hoping he would allow me to register day-of-race. Man I love small races; he emailed me almost immediately saying I was in the race. He also said he would autograph my book, and come and say hi at Soldiers, how cool is that?
The directions to the race stated the start was in Luther Glass Park on the corner of Peachtree Parkway & Crosstown Drive, in Peachtree City Georgia. As I am driving through town I am looking for small directional signs, road signs, something to give me a clue where the heck I was, and if I was on the right road to the start of the race. Finally I see the Peachtree Parkway road sign, now which way do I go, left or right? I made an instinctive left on Peachtree Parkway, I proceed about 5 miles then turned around when I realized I should have made a right instead of left, guess my instincts are a bit off! I finally find the intersection, park in the K-Mart parking lot then proceed to the start area to sign up for the race. I arrived in Peachtree City about 6 am for a 7:30 am start. As soon as I reach the registration table Scott approaches me and introduces himself, and introduces Susan Lance, one of his running partners. Susan was featured in his book "A Passion for Running: Portraits of the Everyday Runner”, she has ran numerous 100 mile races including Western States Endurance Run 100. Scott is also a seasoned runner, he has finished Western States as well, Badwater 135, and ran everyday for 28 years, maybe close to 35 years now, amazing feat!
I took off with the other runners at 7:30 for an easy 31 mile training run. My legs were extremely sore from Soldiers Marathon the day prior; there was no way I was going to even try to compete. I settled into a nice 8 minute pace with a guy name Kevin and Molly Wolfgram close behind us, before too long Molly joined us. Somewhere around mile 12 to 13 Molly and I decided we would run the whole run together, Kevin was just running the 25k. She didn’t want to race it because of overtraining issues, and neither did I since I had run a marathon the day before. It was a perfect fit! At about 15 –17 miles into the race Molly started to get a pain in her side, she had to slow down a bit, she tried to eat more food, cut back her water, your usual tricks trying to remedy the problem, to no avail. I don’t think anything helped her; she just gutted it out to the finish. Now that is a tough girl! We ended up finishing 15 minutes or so slower than I had anticipated we would at the ½, but still a respectable time of 4:44, not too bad for an easy training run on the 2nd day of a double. I placed 11th in the men’s field, and Molly placed 2nd in the women’s field.
At the end of the race Scott gave me a cool medal. They had coolers of soda and water, as well as Panera Bagels of all different flavors, excellent!!! I ended up placing 3rd in my age group the 1st place person in my age group was only 11 minutes ahead of me, ugh! I know on fresh legs I could run that course in 3:45 easy, maybe next year I’ll try to compete??
Finding out about this race, and running this race was a pleasant surprise. I didn’t expect to run the race; it wasn’t planned and therefore was one of those amazing times in my life that just happened! When the race was over I had the chance to BS with Scott Ludwick and Susan Lance a bit more and meet a few other Badwater Veterans, Andy Velazco, Mike Smith, and Al Barker. I also purchased Scott’s other book “A Passion for Running: Portraits of the Everyday Runner” which has stories about amazing endurance athletes, many of whom I know, and a few I met at the Peachtree City 50k.
It doesn’t get much better!
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Back in September Pacer Jim organizer of Marathon Pacing asked me to pace the Soldiers Marathon in Georgia. I have been pacing Jim's marathons for a few years now. Because of how far his marathons are from my home area I don't get a chance to pace races for him often. The majority of Jim's marathons are on the East Coast, Midwest, and in the South. Jim has very few marathons on the West Coast where I live. Whenever I pace for Jim it always involves quite a bit of traveling. I really don't like to travel but since I thoroughly enjoy pacing marathons I put up with the travel part.
I arrived in Atlanta and drove the 100+ miles to Columbus GA. I got in to late to pick up my packet or attend the Expo. Thankfully my Pace Team Leader Pacer Jim took care of all of this for me and also booked a room. Jim had my bib, shirt, pacer sign, and a Spibelt sitting in my room when I arrived. Spibelt sponsored all the pacers for Soldiers Marathon. They gave all of us one to wear during the race. These are very cool, a great way to carry your keys, GU packs, S-Caps, cell phone, or whatever else you might need, they stretch out big enough to just about fit a VW Bug!
I finally was able to hit the sack about 11 pm East Coast time. Because of traveling I wasn't able to eat much that day, and since I went to bed so late my sleep was deprived as well. Gotta love runs in the East Coast time zone. My wake up time was 4 am, for a 7 am race start, man that came too soon. As most runners can vouch it's important to get up well before the start of a race so "Everything" moves and evacuates your system, very important. Who really needs sleep anyways?
Soldiers Marathon was held in Columbus GA on Fort Benning. Many of the aid stations, course volunteers, finish line volunteers were Army guys and gals dressed in full uniform. It was cool to have them volunteering in the race, very much appreciated! The race started with a soldier singing the National Anthem, and a 1. 2, 3, GO! The race start was very congested, it took our 3:45 pace group 3 miles to reach our desired pace. I had 12 -15 people with me through mile 10 when all of a sudden our group shrunk down to 4 or 5. The runners that left the group were running the 1/2 marathon and ran their final 3 miles on their own. 4 of the final 5 runners left were Carey & Chris Lovejoy, Pete Malenowski, & Lara Campen, they stayed with me for the majority of the race. Carey and Chris dropped back somewhere around mile 22, Lara dropped back about 1 1/2 miles from the finish, and Pete stayed with me to the end. Around mile 23 I picked up a few runners who were walk/running, Dennis MacVittie & Arthur Zaricor. Once they joined our group they didn't walk another step.
The last few miles pacing are always the hardest for me mentally; to have people who started the race with me fad the last few miles sucks. It happens in every race despite trying to encourage them to hang with us, sometimes it just isn't possible, they've given it all they had. Only one of my original runners stayed with me to the end, Pete a 26 years old marathon veteran. His best time prior to this race was 4:06. We crossed the finish line together, in fact he carried our pace sign across the finish line. We finished in 3:44:54, he managed a 21 minute PR (personal best). What an amazing moment and a great PR. Dennis, who is a 60+ runner, was the only runner in my group to finish with a Boston Qualifier. Arthur finished his 1st marathon and placed 1st in his age group, impressive! When I pace a race I usually have a lot of cool conversations with my runners. I always wait around for all the folks that dropped back and congratulate them on finishing. After all, we enter marathons with a set of goals, #1 is time based, #2 is to just finish, and #3 is to have fun no matter what. Finishing and having fun is really what it is all about, time goals fly out the window when we realize that goal is shot.
Soldiers is a new marathon, in fact this is only their second year. It was very impressive how well organized everything was, water stations fully stocked, mile markers in the right place, the correct USATF distance, finish line food galore, and best of all free BEER!!
I’ll be back next year!