Sunday, December 7, 2008

Memphis St Jude's Half Marathon

We arrived in Memphis as planned, mid afternoon on Friday. After checking in at the hotel, we proceeded to find our way to the Convention Center to pick up the registration packet and to walk through the expo. I was assigned number 9634. After a couple of passes through he exhibitor booths we ran into some of our HEAT friends and we made plans for dinner.
At 6 pm we gathered to make a decision as to where we would go have our pre-race meal. Our first choice turned out to be very crowed so the group opted to walk across the street to a place called Mesquite Chop House. It appeared to be a fine, upscale restaurant and they had a table ready for our group of twelve. Other than being sat next to the front door where the cold breeze from the outside would send chill up our spine every time the door would open, the table seemed appropriate for our needs.
This post is not about the restaurant experience so I will just say that the server was awesome and the food was good... once we were served. Enough about that.
Made it back to the hotel around 10pm and hit the sack shortly thereafter. I slept well until somewhere around 3am when I woke up thinking about the race and how my body would perform in the cold weather.
We arrived at the race site and scrambled a bit to find the location of the start. We thought it would be best to follow the crowds but at first it looked like we were all lost. We asked a police officer if he could point us in the right direction, but he had no idea. So we just followed where people seemed to be going.
We finally found the spot with about half hour to spare and proceeded to do my stretches and warm up. Then I posted myself in corral number six. According to my estimated finish time, this is where I needed to be. Slowly the corral got crowded, very crowded. The estimated eleven thousand marathoners and half marathoners were all anxious and ready to run. There were some fifteen corrals in all was my estimate. One corral was supposed to be sent out every couple of minutes to give the runners and opportunity to spread out and find a pace. Not sure at this point what happened but the first 4-5 miles of the race where crowded, very crowded. It was very difficult to find a pace for the pace was pretty much dictated by the pack. I found out after the race that two corrals were sent out at a time and that the time between corrals was no where near the two minutes.
The first few miles of the run where good for me. My pace was steady and increasing as I had planned. By mile 5 my pace was at 8:40, which game me plenty of room to be able to accomplish my sub two hour finish time. To do this, I figured I needed an average pace of around 9 minutes.
The run course itself was pretty nice and at times it had a few challenges. The toughest portion, I thought, was around the area of the Memphis Zoo. Could also have been that the miles were adding up quickly. Then we came to the Poplar Avenue stretch. A long stretch of road that seemed to go forever.
At this point I knew that I didn't have much time to spare if I wanted to make my goal. My "slow down and catch my breath" zones would have to be managed very carefully. I remember reading about how to get over the need to slow down when you know you shouldn't. I picked a spot some twenty blocks down the road and focused on it. It was my intention to make it here and then decide if a slow down was what I really needed. After arriving here I just kept on going. This plan worked and it worked great.
There were plenty of water stations throughout the course One every mile or so. This seemed to be adequate for most everyone's needs. These, however were very crowded and at times impossible to take advantage of. I have thought that it would be a good idea to bring my own fuel belt, fully loaded to these events. After today, I think I will make it a practice. Additionally, this will also give me a place to store my energy gels.
The last couple of miles were difficult in as much as it took more mind than matter. My pace had slowed down close to the 9 minute and I knew I didn't have much to spare, so dig down deep I had to.
As I crossed the finish line, my gps read 1hr, 59minutes. As it appeared I had made my goal. Now I wait for the official results. Shouldn't be to different. I hope.
My overall opinion of this race is that it was a well managed, well planned event. Nice course, not to hard, not to soft. The crowds were big and very helpful to the runners. If you're serious about achieving a personal record, I'm not sure this is the place to be, specially once you get into the 8 minute pace due to the fact that the crowded field makes this very difficult. This however, is a great race for a wonderful cause, so support it if you can.

1 comment:

  1. Congrats on the sub 2. I'm attempting that at the Tom King for the first time. That picking a spot sounds like a good tip. Thanks