Race:  Mississippi Blues Marathon (Jackson, MS)



The weekend before the race we went up to the “lakehouse” in Mountain Home, AR.  On the way up there we stopped at this little restaurant in Hardy, AR to eat lunch.  The food was not good, and I ended up with a nasty stomach virus for the next 5 Days.  This was Friday, and I didn’t get well until the following Tuesday.  I was miserable, and very worried that this would cause some problems for the coming race.  I got a new Garmin 405 for Christmas, and some new Altra Zero Drop Instincts that I was really looking forward to trying out before the race.  The stomach virus put a stop to any training runs that would happen the week before the Marathon.  I tried not to let that bother me, and put my focus on the race.

A friend of mine, Shawn, and I rode to Jackson, MS together from his house on Friday afternoon.  Another friend of ours Matt would join us later.  We got to the expo at the Jackson Convention Complex around 3 o’clock.  It was a small expo, but was still pretty cool.  They had some good merchandise, and a stage where musicians were playing.  Here’s a pic I snapped:


I was pretty impressed with the medal as well:


Probably the coolest medal I have ever gotten.  We walked around for a few minutes, and I bought a couple of things.   Then we took a drive on the half-marathon route to see what it was like.  Shawn would be running the half and I was running the full.  We drove around for a bit noticing that the hills were going to be pretty tough.  After driving around, we went back to the expo to meet up with Matt who had now arrived and been through the packet pickup.  It was time to head over to the hotel.

Matt had gotten the hotel room, and invited us to stay with him (which was very, very cool of him to do).  We got all of our things put away, and ventured out on the town for our pre-race meal.  We settled on a steak house that was close to the hotel.  I had a big cheeseburger and two beers along with a bunch of peanuts we cracked and ate after we threw the shells on the floor.  After dinner we decided to go see Django Unchained (the “D” is silent).  Awesome movie with lots of blood and violence.  Classic Tarantino.  Back to the hotel.  I got my Lacrosse balls out of my Mobility Kit and rolled my feet.  Matt showed me how to use my new Garmin watch, we got our things together for the race the next morning, and went to sleep.

At 5 o’clock in the morning it was a little chilly, but not too bad.  Probably 38-40 degrees.  I planned on wearing my Journeymen singlet, but wore a throw away sweatshirt over it on the way to the race and some cheap gloves I bought at the expo.  We arrived at the starting line at about 6:15, 45 minutes before the race was to start.  The three of us went for a short little warm up jog, and we were ready to fall in line at the start.  They had a blues guitarist play the national anthem, counted us down, and we were off.

My plan going into this race was to run a pace somewhere between 8:30 and 9:00 for the whole race.  This would put me somewhere between 3 hours 45 minutes and 4 hours.  I really wanted to come in sub-4 hours, and I knew that a 9 minute pace would get me to 3:55.  In addition to this pace goal, I also wanted to feel strong through miles 18-20.  In my last two road marathons, I started feeling like crap around mile 18 and ended up with a run/walk strategy to finish the race.  This time I wanted to run strong the whole time, so I paid careful attention to my nutrition and made sure to eat and drink often.

Having my GPS watch was HUGE!  I loved it. It is such a great feeling to know how fast you’re going and whether you need to back down or pick up the pace a little bit.  Here are the splits for the race.  The first mile I was a little over 9 minutes so I knew I needed to pick it up a little bit.  I kept my pace under 9 minutes all the way through mile 22.  I felt great.  The hills were tough, but didn’t really bother me that much.  My quads felt great (because I squat a lot) and never cramped up at all.  I enjoyed the scenery as I ran.  Like St. Jude, there were bands playing along the way and that was pretty cool.  Around mile 12 I put my headphones on.  I usually don’t run with music, but I decided to give it a try this time around.  It helped out quite a bit.  The music distracted me from little foot cramps and things that would usually break my concentration.  I relaxed, kept my pace and let Bono tell me it was “a beautiful day!”

Before I knew it, I was at mile 18.  This is where I normally “hit the wall.”  This time, however, I didn’t feel bad at all.  I felt great!  I ran right through miles 18-22 well under or right at 9 minutes.  With only 4 miles left, I started wearing down a little bit.  I tried, but I just couldn’t hold the pace any longer.  I wasn’t discouraged at all though because I could see that my overall average pace on my watch was at 8:52.  This was the first time during the race that my overall average had gone above 8:50.  As long as I could keep that overall pace below 9 minutes I knew I would be alright.  I never walked, but I slowed down quite a bit.  At mile 25 I clocked my slowest pace of the race @ 9:55.  It was around this time I saw my buddy Shawn and he snapped a picture:



In a zone.  I was determined to move as fast as I could.  It wasn’t long before I was making that final .2 run into the finish line.  I saw the clock, 3:53:58.  I HAD to beat 3:55.  I ran as hard as I could while watching the clock tick.  It was exactly like watching the clock at the end of a horrible Crossfit WOD. If you’re a crossfitter you know what I’m talking about.  You’ve got less than a minute left in a tough AMRAP and you’re doing everything you can to squeeze out one more rep.  I had to dig deep and get there before that clock flipped to 3:55.  It took everything I had, but I made it.  I thought I got across just at 3:54:57, but as it turns out it was actually 3:54:32 according to the official results.  I crossed the finish line, got my big ass awesome medal, and met up with my friends:



We sat around for a little bit. I had a couple of beers and we went back to the hotel to shower and change clothes.  While I was waiting for the shower, I broke out the Mobility Kit again.  This thing is a must have for any distance runner.  It travels easy and has everything in it that you need.  My feet were killing me, so I immediately started rolling them out:


After using the stick and lacrosse balls to work out some of the pain, it was time to head home.  On the ride home I thought about the race and what lessons I could learn from it and what  I was happy about. I was super happy about being able to keep a pretty consistent pace throughout the race.  Especially without having done any kind of pacing or very many runs before the race.  I did one 13 mile run and 1 11 mile run within 3 weeks of the race and that was about it.  I didn’t know what my pace was for those two runs, I could just guess based on what the others that ran with me said they ran.  So I was very excited to determine that I could hold a sub 9 minute pace for almost an entire marathon, and sub 9 minutes overall.  That’s pretty awesome and I’m very proud of that.  This course was VERY hilly, and I feel like if I went back and ran another marathon like St. Jude that I’d be able to get closer to 3:45-3:50.  I am also pretty excited that I got to mile 18 and felt awesome.  Facing the wall, I ran right through it.  Sure I slowed down after about mile 22, but not enough to bonk.  I’m very happy about that.   I feel like I beat this marathon, it didn’t beat me.  Best road marathon yet.  Another run bites the dust.

Now, on to training for Sylamore.  Shawn and I have our eyes on a sub-5:30 finish at the 50K.  We finished at 6 hours last year, so this is a pretty lofty goal.  We just have to hold a 10:30 pace or something like that.  We can do it!  Anyway, back to training tomorrow.  I’ll ease back in to it, and should be back to normal by Friday.  Looking forward to what’s to come.

Lift Heavy Run Long,