Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I love Savannah! And new PR!

I absolutely love the city of Savannah, Georgia! I have loved it since I first came down with my good friend and former roommate, Michael Dillon, who grew up on Isle of Hope and graduated from Benedictine Military School. For years, we would march in the St. Patrick's Day Parade with the parade committee, which is dad and uncles served, and it was a lot of fun. We'd have breakfast at his club before the parade where I would regularly be "fined" for such offenses as being from the North, being a liberal, not being actually Irish, and other reasons - all in good-natured humor. The parade took us through the downtown section of the city, dressed in our sport coats and green ties, passed the usual spot where his family would park to watch, and we would finish near the hotel where we stayed (I think the Hilton) and then head back to watch the parade with his family. After, at our hotel we would join the Robertson family luncheon before resting for a bit in anticipation of hitting River Street that night. I did this for many years and hadn't been in almost five years - combined with the allure of an inaugural race and the chance to visit one of my favorite cities with some of my favorite people, how could I not run? I planned this marathon earlier in the year when Rock N Roll series offered a half off special that I took advantage of - even though I wasn't sure which fall race I would try to qualify for Boston. Having run 3:07:36 in Pocatello, Idaho, nine weeks earlier, I was free of the pressure of trying to qualify for Boston since I not only qualified but my time was accepted, and I am registered for the race on April 16, 2012. With that "monkey off my back" I was free to simply enjoy the race with little pressures. I arrived Friday around 2 and noticed that Marianne from my running club was on my flight. She was going to run the half along with Lindsey in my club. I had a rental car and drove us to the expo then dropped them at their hotel before checking in to my Best Western on Abercorn. Needing a pasta dinner, I went to Bella's, a local favorite, and seeing the long line ordered take-out, which I came back for after a quick stop to the food market around the corner for bagels, bananas, and water. It was a very low key dinner alone in my hotel room as I prepared for the race, took a bath to relax, and went to bed.
On race morning, I awoke at 4am, ate a bagel, hopped in the shower (which I find relaxes my muscles and feels so good before a race), and gathered my stuff to head to the Savannah Mall where a bus took runners to the start of the race. I hung out in the Marriott with charity runners glad in purple before heading to my corral, which was at the front of the race. The race started right by city hall, which is lit green for St. Patrick's Day, and after the usual pre-race announcements, encouragements, prayer, and pledge, we were sent on our way. My plan was simple: hold a 7 minute per mile pace as long as possible. I raced the Army Ten Miler four weeks earlier and tied my personal best of 65:32, and I knew I was in good shape considering my taper went according to plan. I also felt confidence I hadn't in past races because now I knew that I could run a sub 3:10. I smiled most of the way, enjoyed the city, the Spanish moss, and just kept focusing on my breathing, my form (good form will save you every time), and the song stuck in my head (Foster the People's "Pumped up Kicks" which worked in Idaho). My refuel strategy was to take water or Gatorade at almost each stand and to Gu (chocolate outrage) at 6, 12.5, and 19. The course was mostly flat, there was a breeze, but it wasn't bad while in the city, and the weather was a perfect mid 40's to start and never got above 50's. I stayed in my head most of the race, smiling at the spectators cheering us on, listening to the bands as I passed, and just enjoying that I was in a groove, that the pace was comfortable, and that if I stuck to my plan of just trying to get a sub-3:10, it would be a good day. I hit the ten mile mark in 69 minutes (I remember when my ten miler bet was 70 minutes!), crossed the half in 1:31, and trotted on to the next mini goal. I felt better than I had in Pocatello at the half and mile 17 so I pushed on knowing that if I blew up I already was registered for Boston. But, if I could hold my pace, I had a potential personal record breaking day. I had visions of 3:02 or 03 right up until the highway ramp coming back in to the city and the 15-20 mile per hour winds slowed my pace from close to 7 to almost 7:40. I regrouped for the last two miles and went into an all out sprint for the last quarter mile. I passed a guy down the stretch and stopped my watch right after the finish line and shouted, "Y'all, my back hurts, and I need a Coke!" as an homage to Michael's now-famous quote given to us after a parade nearly ten years ago. My official time is currently 3:05:01 with a caveat. My watch, started just before the start line and stopped just after the finish, read 3:05:00. That one second means something since the new Boston standard for open men (18-34) 2013 is 3:05:00, not 3:10, and there is no grace seconds of up to 59 seconds. Some runners were complaining their watch time was different than the official time, so I figured I would make my case to the race committee that I should have a 3:04:59 or 3:05:00. That one second matters, even though since I age up to 35 and my standard will be 3:10 in 2013, that one second will let me register a day early and give me the satisfaction of knowing I qualified under the toughest standards. Plus, as I was getting ready to make my finishing kick about 600 meters from the finish, a spectator crossed right in front of me forcing me to sidestep to avoid him and throwing me off my pace. I think I have a good case. Here are my splits = 7:00; 6:59; 6:58; 6:59; 6:50; 6:54; 6:58; 6:55; 6:57; 6:54; 6:55; 6:50; 6:52; 7:01; 7:04; 6:51; 6:49; 6:56; 7:03; 7:12; 7:18; 7:31; 7:39; 7:37; 7:14; 7:25; 1:24 (.24) NEW PR and BQ!
The rest of my time in Savannah was quite nice. I spent the afternoon with Michael's aunts, Shelley and Felice, and his Nana. It was good to catch up and hopefully next time I'll be able to see his folks and coordinate so he will be in town. I went out on River Street with my running club friends, and we ate dinner at Oceanside before going to Kevin Barry's - a great Irish pub with a live musician that Marianne thought was great. Around 11, exhausted and sleepy, I called it a night.
Savannah is a great city, and I am very pleased that my personal best was set at this inaugural race. Georgia is my ninth state, and G-d willing Boston will go well and I'll have my tenth state and enter the 50 State Club in April. I can't believe I have to wait six months for my next marathon!

1 comment:

  1. So after all these years of trying, now merely qualifying for Boston is not enough. Now you have to qualify under the new, tougher open standards, even though they won't apply to you because of your age.

    Some runners are just never satisfied. ;-)

    Congrats on ANOTHER BQ and PR this Fall. You are a beast.

    Next year - under 3:00!