September 11 is a day that really troubles me. I think back to the events of that day, and all the innocent people killed, and the way it changed this country forever, and it really upsets me. I’m proud to be an American, and I enjoy Independence Day, but I think I feel more of a sense of national pride on September 11. In my blog on Thursday, I told you guys to do something American. I don’t think I could have done anything more American that participate in the Patriots Run in Olathe, Kan.
The Patriots Run is a combo timed ultra (nine hours, 11 minutes) and a marathon. I participated in both. They both started at noon, but I entered each race so I could have two official times. The course is a fairly flat loop in a parking lot of a mall in Olathe, a Kansas City suburb. There were bands and DJs playing the entire time, I could hear the PA on about 75 percent of the course and there were a lot of people hanging out with pop-up tents, tailgating and watching the race.
I could smell grilling, there were American flags all over the place and I could hear people listening to college football games. Some folks even help up white boards with scores so those of us running would know how teams were doing. There was solid military participation in the event, relay teams of troops carrying big packs dressed in full fatigues. Two men carried large American flags for the duration of the run. Another had the names of three relatives killed on 9/11 on his back.
Near the end of the race, one of the Army teams ran the course carrying a huge log or something like that overhead (it must have been 15 feet long and 2-3 feet in diameter), drawing applause from spectators. The volunteers were great and lots of spectators were generously offering assistance. This race was run in the Heartland, and it was nice and humid with the hot sun blazing overhead. It’s a tribute to 9/11 victims and proceeds from the race go to charity — I think the Salvation Army, but I wasn’t sure. Basically, it was as American as it gets and I loved it. That all being said, I’ll talk a little bit about how I ran.
It was hot out — 80 degrees with 70 percent humidity, very difficult running conditions. The race started at noon and ended at 9:11. I checked hourly forecasts and I knew it was going to get progressively warmer (only slightly) until about 5 p.m. and we’d start to get shade sometime after 7 p.m. I was entered in the marathon and the ultra — I was more focused on the ultra, but I still wanted to do my best for the marathon.
When we took off, I knew within about a mile it was going to be a tough day. I hadn’t run all week since my 45-mile/7-hour race the next day. I rode the bike at the gym, but I wanted to minimize impact and pounding. My legs felt good walking around, but once I started running, I could tell they were dead. And of course, I was roasting in the heat. I knew it was going to be a long day.
I dragged through the marathon, but got slower and slower. I hit the half somewhere around 1:47 and went 3:46, which was good enough for fifth place in a small field on a hot day. If you’ve followed along this year, you know that’s nothing I’m happy about.
I ran the entire marathon, but while I didn’t walk during my 45 miles last week, I knew I’d use a run-walk strategy immediately after I completed 26.2 miles. There was a stretch of about 1/10 of a mile from the aid station around a curve that I walked, then after 3/10 of a mile of running, I walked 1/10 of a mile up a slight incline and then ran 1/2 a mile to complete each loop. Repeat, repeat, repeat. I was running miles in the high 8s by the end of the marathon and once I kept rolling with the walk breaks, those crept into the 10s, then eventually 11s and 12s.
At mile 30, I asked a spectator to borrow her phone to call my wife and let her know that I was OK. I’ve found that women like to know that their husbands are alive and well when they’re running in the sun for nine hours. I found out on that call that our oldest son accidentally spilled water on Tiff’s laptop. She started asking me all sorts of questions, but I had to remind her I was in the middle of a race and I needed to keep rolling!
When I was on lap 33, I heard the PA announcer say the ultra leader was on lap 33, but he didn’t say who it was. I thought it was entirely possible it was me, but I knew there could have been other people on the lead lap, too. So, I started to have thoughts about going for the win, even though that was still more than four hours down the road.
On lap 40, I stopped to call Tiff again and let her know I was OK. Everything sounded like it was going a little better back home. About five minutes into the lap, I passed a guy who was talking to a woman and I could hear him say he was on 40. I suspected he was my competition, although it was tough for me to know if he was a lap ahead, a lap behind or on the same lap. I just knew I needed to keep an eye out.
At about 7 p.m., I could feel both my calves feel like they were on the verge of cramping. I never use electrolyte tabs and I know that in long races in the sun, that’s pretty important. I had been drinking a lot of Gatorade at the aid station throughout the day, but at that point, I started eating a fair amount pretzels each time through to get the salt in my system. I knew it was going to be a matter of me hanging on until the end without blowing up. I was getting concerned.
My miles slipped down to about 12 minutes each. I had been looking at 55 miles as my goal for the race, but I could tell I was slipping down towards 52-53. For some reason, with about an hour to go, I caught a second wind. I called Tiff one last time at mile 48 and it sounded like everything was fine back home, which is nice. She had a rough day Friday and I hate it when that happens when I’m gone.
Anyways, once I left from there, I was doing math in my head and knew that 53 was looking good, but if I could average a little better than 11-minute loops, I would have a good shot at 54. It was cooling off, down to the high 60s or so, which made it a little bit easier. I started knocking off laps in the mid-10s and when I ran, I was in the mid-8s. I forget exactly what times I completed some of the later laps, but I knew after I hit 51 miles that I’d be able to hit 54 if I skipped my last three walk breaks. I was dreading it, because those helped me re-energize during the later parts of the day, but I knew that I’d been working so hard for so long, and I didn’t want it all to go to waste over a walk break.
With two laps to go, I crossed through with the guy I had seen on lap 40 and he told his friends he was excited, because he knocked out that lap in 9:30, which is exactly what I had done it in. I knew I had a race on my hands, but I was pretty tired. I took my walk break from the aid station. I needed to catch my breath and get one last drink before pushing on for the final 1.9 miles. I could see him gain quite a bit on me during that time, but physically, there was not a lot I could do. I had to walk.
I kept shuffling as well as I could and I don’t know how quick that mile was, but I’m pretty sure it was quicker than nine minutes. When I crossed the mat for mile 53, I knew I’d hit 54 because I had 13 minutes or so. But I needed to run that guy down! I didn’t know if he had lapped me or if he was just 1/4 lap ahead of me, but there was no sense not doing everything I could to pass him, just in case.
I went as hard as I could and could feel the twitching really bad in both hamstrings and both calves. I came up on him with about a 1/2 mile to go, right at the top of the incline I had been walking. I was thinking about hanging behind him and passing later, but I felt strong, so I just powered by and kept rolling. I was striding funny, because my legs were about to lock up, but they didn’t until after I finished. I ran that last mile in 7:53. Sure enough, we were on the same lap and he was the race leader, so I won the race! We both completed the same number of laps, but since I finished about two minutes ahead of him, I took first place and he was second.
I continued on after the finish walking for a bit until the clock hit 9:11. I couldn’t quit until the end in a race like that. It was a lot of fun and a great way to spend a day. I know I’m doing what I’m doing for Train 4 Autism, but I ran this one thinking a lot more about September 11 and how proud I am to be an American.
So that’s all, I guess. 42 and an ultra down, 19 marathons to go!
Me hitting 54 miles.