All American Marathon 2016- Race Recap

4/3-  The All American Marathon was my 25th Full.  I’m going to take a departure from my normal race review due to time restrictions, and the realization that lately I just don’t have the time or energy to sit down and focus on a full account.  I haven’t had the desire to blog as much lately, leaving me sort of at odds with how best to review my races, and share information that may be helpful to others in choosing events.  I’ll just let my fingers do the typing and see where it leads……

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I’ve raced the All Amercican Full all three years of its existence.  It’s such a fun and inspirational event, growing in numbers every year.  I’ve had a close affiliation with the race, this year taking the lead in the final month for the pace team.

I worked the pacer table at the expo the day before the race, meeting tons of enthusiastic runners.  It was a chance to meet folks on the pacer team, and talk all things running related including the course, best spectator viewing spots, course elevation, etc…  It was a lot of fun to be involved in this way.

Race morning came, my son and I took off early from the house for the 45 minute drive to Fayetteville.  He was pacing the 2:00 Half, me the 4:00 Full.  The best part about this?  Since we were pacing the same time, we could run side by side for nearly 10 miles until the courses split!  Race day weather would introduce a new challenge for me, and others.  Temperatures were great, but it was very, very windy.  I’ve run in the absolute bitterness of 8 degrees at the Asheville Marathon, near 80 degree temps at Rock n Roll Raleigh, rain in Hilton Head and Asheville Fulls, some wind in Charleston, but this wind was different.  Headwinds of 20mph, mostly sustained, with gusts up to 30 mph.  It wasn’t until we were about 6-7 miles into the race that I really understood how difficult this day would be.

Dylan and I enjoyed our time together, perfectly pacing 10 miles through Fayettevile, onto the All American Freeway and on into Ft. Bragg.  Here are some awesome photos from someone overhead on one of the overpasses.

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We are in green!

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I realized as the courses split, that this day was going to test everything I had.  It would take every ounce of energy I could muster just to cross the finish line.  Turning onto Ft. Bragg, the winds got even worse.  Knowing the course, I was yearning to hit Pope Airfield, where I knew we would turn, and hopefully (finally) get to take advantage of tailwinds.  Just as he turn came, the winds died down, and with it my spirit.  I had never worked this hard to maintain pace.  I knew in my heart without a bit of help in my favor from the wind, the extra effort already expended would kill my race.  So, let’s add mega wind to my list of hates for race day weather.  The wind killed the races of about 300 runners that day in the marathon, as the list of runners that started the race but didn’t finish it, was immense.  More than I had ever seen.

By mile 20 I wanted to walk off the course.  I’ve never done this, but I wanted to.  I had absolutely nothing left in the tank.  All of my energy was drained from fighting the wind, and then it picked back up.  More headwinds….  Really?  Unbelievable.  How can I pace this, when it was really just a death march to the finish?  I was going to finish, but didn’t want to throw any runners off as far as pace, so although disappointed, took off my pacing shirt and ditched my pacing sign.  I was in the race still, but only for me.  Only to finish.

I have never felt so drained in my entire life, but I did eventually finish.  My marathon #25 now barely completed, and now my personal worst marathon finish.  BUT….I finished.  I was embarrassed, and disheartened by my performance.  I could barely stand, and felt like I could pass out of pure exhaustion any moment.  Luckily my son was there to lend assistance if needed.  It took me about 20 minutes to feel recovered enough to take the slow walk to the shuttle, and back to the car.  The weather defeated my pace goal that day, but didn’t defeat my finish.  I finished my quarter century marathon that day in a dismal 4:17:34.  My worst by 4 minutes over the Outer Banks Marathon a few years ago.

Over a week has passed since this event, and my time to reflect has left me with this thought.  I pushed through the conditions, and finished a marathon.  A friggin marathon.  Sometimes I take for granted just how difficult running a marathon is even in perfect conditions.  On that day, the weather was not perfect, my performance was not perfect.  Who cares!  I FINISHED!

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Heckuva Hodgepodge

Finally with a day off, my post today is all about randomness.  So many things to discuss, but not enough time.  You see, I have pretty much been working nonstop the last three weeks, so today this is me!

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I usually don’t watch a whole lot of TV, especially during the mornings and afternoon.  Lucky for me though, I have something awesome to watch on TV as I rest my weary feet.  The French Open!  You see, I am a diehard tennis player/fan, so spending time watching a Major on television is pure joy for me today.  Roger Federer just lost, but one of my favorite women won today and is on to the Semifinals.

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Yep, Ana Ivanovic from Serbia.  She won the whole thing back in 2008, and I was instantly a fan.  So much fun to watch her play, especially when she is playing well!

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In between folding loads of laundry and cleaning up the kitchen, I have been working on fundraising efforts for the James Blake Foundation.  I currently have three dirt bikes listed on Craigslist and all proceeds from the sale of these bikes will be donated to this charity.  You can make a donation to this awesome charity fighting the good fight against cancer with amazing research.  I am currently working with Angie from https://marathang.wordpress.com.   Promoting her headband business, we came up with a few styles currently for sale on her website.  She is donating half of the proceeds from the sale of these headbands to my fundraiser, so any donation $10 and up will score you a headband.

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Check them out on her blog, or click on the following link to my fundraiser.

In addition to relaxing today, and getting a few chores done, I got a neat email a little while ago.  I’ve been selected to return for a second year as an ambassador for the All American Marathon!  A race that is a ton of fun to run and represent, this military event is taking place April 2, 2016 and runs from Fayetteville, NC into Ft. Bragg.

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So proud to be a part of this amazing race!

So, what kind of hodgepodge of things have you gotten yourself into today?  Don’t forget that tomorrow is National Running Day, and quite often you can score some great deals on running shoes, apparel and even discounted race entries.  I know that Rock n Roll is offering a discount on many of its races tomorrow.  Have you seen any others?  Please share here if you have!

All American Marathon- Race Recap

The race countdown clock is at 15 minutes….

A bit in shock, and trying to regain my composure, I prepared to run.  You can read all about race morning prior to the start here:  http://wp.me/p3u1nG-1YB.

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I did manage to snap a few photos before the howitzer cannon sent us runners on our way.  One thing I did notice, and you will clearly see in the second photo, the pacers for this event were all over the place.  Not sure that they had a real concrete plan as to where they should line up.  In the photo above, some Raleigh folks that I met in the starting line.  Todd (r) was running his 8th marathon!!  It was nice to finally meet everyone!

The mood at the start was very electric.  Lots and lots of servicemen and women everywhere.  Some running, and some not, but what I can say is that of all of the marathons that I have run, there were a ton of very fit runners in that field.

As the cannon sounded, we were off!  Having run this race last year, I had decided prior to the event to not push the first five miles as hard this time around.  The start of the race, winding through Fayetteville for the first few miles, is difficult.  It’s very challenging.  I think in retrospect, I pushed too hard last year and struggled more at the end of the race as a result.  This time I took it slower over the undulating course leading up to the All American Freeway.  Lots of ups and downs I completed the first five miles in 41:17, for a pace of 8:15.  I think I succeeded at conserving some energy.  Last year I finished this portion well under 8 minutes per mile, and I paid dearly for it later.

With my son there with me running the Half, the potential was there for us to run together for the first ten miles, as the courses as the same.  His lack of training hampered him a bit, and he warned me ahead of time to just go out in front of him if necessary.  Well, about a mile in he was lagging behind me, and slowly but surely disappeared from my view.  I checked now and then by turning around, but I just couldn’t see him anymore shortly into the race.  I thought of him the whole way, and knew he would still have a good race no matter what.  He loved running the race with me last year so much, that he just had to do it again.

Here is a special treat while running on the All American Freeway.  Wear Blue to Remember had a one mile section here, full of signs of soldiers who were killed in action, family members, and American flags everywhere.  It is so touching, so special.

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Despite my fall earlier in the morning, I felt like my legs and body were holding up just fine.  I think the fall sort of distracted me from the normal aches and pains I think about when running.  I was just happy to be out there, and always so honored to be racing among the men and women of service.  Our armed forces are just spectacular, and I highly respect their dedication to protecting our country.  It is a real honor to run this race, and the patriotism abounds!

As I approached mile 10, where the Half and Full courses split, I remained focused on even pacing.  I wanted to run smarter this year.  I wanted gas in the tank throughout the race, and not let up.  As mile 10 passed, my overall pace had only dropped a few seconds.  I wasn’t going for a PR, or even a BQ at this event.  My only goal was to try to beat my time of 3:52:25 the prior year.  Now at 8:18 pace overall, I was succeeding at keeping steady.

Now on base in Ft. Bragg I remembered the course well.  I knew we had some rolling hills coming up as we ran past military housing and the occasional military vehicles brought to the sides of the course.  It’s a great race to say thanks to volunteers.  Why?  There are just so many along the course.  Servicemen and women line the course cheering you on, and aid stations (which are aplenty) are packed with volunteers. These are some of the loudest groups of volunteers that I have ever experienced in a race.  The volunteers are just amazing!  Thank you to you all!

Mile 15 split was 2:06:34.  Pace now at 8:26.  Happy with that, for sure because of the rolling hills over the past five miles.  Heading out toward Pope Airforce Base, the course turns quieter.  For me it was a time to really hone in on the calm and serenity that is running for me.  Aside from passing aid stations, us marathoners were out there in relative quiet.  My son texted me that he was finished.  A 1:55 Half was not as good as his finish last year, but outstanding considering his lack of training.  I was so happy for him, and texted him back “well done son”!

I really was having a great run.  I tried to keep it as even paced as I could.  Knowing that a few tough hills were coming up at the end of the race, I felt good.  From miles 15-20 I don’t think I was ever passed by another runner.  Slowly but surely I passed runner after runner.  I think I counted at least 30.  My thought here was that I was enduring the course better than a lot of runners out there.  I passed one guy, and we struck up a conversation.  This was his first marathon.  I wished him well, and told him to finish strong.  Then I passed another, running his first marathon.  This seemed to be a common theme.  I passed another, his first marathon.  It makes me feel good to run among new runners, or new runners of the marathon distance.  I was there once, and most of these guys were struggling on the back half of the course.  I think they got suckered in to the false belief that endurance running is easy.  I gave all of them kudos for being out there, and to push hard to finish.

I hit mile 20 at a pace of 8:35.  I was slowing down, but not by a whole lot.  My body was holding up, despite now feeling some of the effects from my fall in the early morning.  At this point I really wished that I was able to take some ibuprofen.  Not to be, press on!

Fueling well, I never had the slightest cramp.  Race temps were perfect, and yet I was sweating a lot from the very start.  I had a complete Body Glide fail that day.  By mile 20 my nipples were completely raw, and I knew that they were bleeding because I had blood stains on the sides of my thumbs from rubbing against my shirt.  You couldn’t see the blood on my shirt because it was dark blue and red.  It blended in well, so that I didn’t have to gross out the spectators.

Fearing a huge hill that I epically failed on last year toward the end of the race, that hill never came.  The course had changed a bit this year, and that hill was taken out!  Yeah!  I was so thankful!  We passed some military planes around mile 19.

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Yes, I stopped very briefly to snap the photo.

The end of the race was nearing.  I kept moving.  Clearly slowing down, I still wasn’t being passed by other runners.  I knew that I could finish the race strongly.  I enjoyed the final miles as the spectators starting coming more and more into view.  Finishing at Parade Field, men and women in uniform were there to greet and congratulate us.  The final tenth of a mile came to many cheering on both sides of the course.  I saw my son clapping.  And then, I got passed!  By three guys!  I didn’t care.  I had a strong finish, and most importantly ran the kind of race I wanted to that day.  I stayed strong, and despite my accident before the race even started, I endured!

I came across the line in 3:50:51.  I made my goal, and beat last years time.  It was a top 14% finish for me in my 18th marathon.

I finished 85/595 overall.  8/52 in my age group.

Time to relax.  I really wanted to fall over and lay on the ground.  I thought I might not get up though, so I stood upright, was given my medal and made my way over to my son.  It took me about ten minutes to really catch my breath and feel ok.  I knew I wanted to get my wounds taken care of in the medical tent before heading home, so I grabbed some chocolate milk and some other chow, grabbed my finisher gift and then found a place to sit down for a few.

Take a look at the awesome shirt, medal and backpack!

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My son and I talked, and laughed, and swapped stories of our races.  I love having family that runs occasionally with me.  It really makes the day special.  Overall the event was meticulously pulled off, every detail well executed.  All of my thanks to the numerous people behind the scenes.  What a great event!  The spectators, volunteers and countless military members are so appreciated.  I will be back, and continue to support this amazing race!

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Thank you All American Marathon!