Saturday, November 5, 2011

Savannah Marathon Recap

by Meghann on November 5, 2011

We did it!


26.2 miles. Done.

AND Ben managed to set a new PR!

We crossed the finish line hand-in-hand with a chip time of 4:16:16!! Woo hoo!

Race morning started ridiculously early (per usual) with our alarms beeping loudly at 3:30am. Ouch. The race didn’t start until 7:30, but we didn’t want to stress ourselves out with parking or shuttles. The plan was to get up and out the door in time to catch one of the first shuttles at 4:45am.

I pre-fueled for the race with a toasted(!!) cinnamon raisin bagel with almond butter.


Toasted bagels are ONE MILLION times better than untoasted bagels. 🙂

We left the hotel a little later then planned and ended up at the Savannah Mall around 5:00am. When we pulled in, we drove by dozens of buses waiting to take runners to the start. There were barely any cars in the parking lot at this time and we had no problem walking right on a bus.


I was really happy with RNR’s organization with getting people on buses. I discovered via twitter that other runners had problem with later buses, but arriving early really saved us any headaches. We were on a bus and ready to go as soon as we parked.


Unfortunately the great organization ended there. You could really see some holes in the system when the bus driver made it near the start and had no clue where to drop us off. After circling downtown, she eventually apologized and let us off a couple of blocks away from the start. It wasn’t her fault, I just think there was a little miscommunication with the race organizers and the bus drivers.

We arrived at the start a full hour and a half before the start, but I’d rather be an hour early than 10 minutes late. 😉 However, it was FREEZING by the river, so we sought shelter at the Hyatt.


They had clean bathrooms, clean carpet to sit on, and hot coffee to drink. Worked for us.


Our friend new friend Shannon joined us.


We hung out as long a we could, but eventually made our way to gear check and our start corral.


My little brother and I had decided when we registered for this race that we were going to run it together. After completing Augusta 70.3 at the end of September, we had no idea what to expect for this race. Was 6 weeks enough time to train for a marathon? We decided to just grit our teeth and see what we could do.

Yesterday we came up with the very loose goal of finishing under 4:30. Ben wanted to try and beat his former Nashville PR of 4:31and I just wanted to run with him. I told him that I hadn’t finished a marathon over 4:30 yet and I wasn’t planning to start now. If he wanted me to push him under 4:30, then I was going to deliver.

We entered corral 6 together and patiently waited for the start.


Roughly 6 minutes after the start, we were off.


The start was race perfect. There was no bottle necking and we were able to keep a great pace without having to weave in and out of walkers. We were cruising at a 9:00 min/mi pace and – for the first 10 miles – we had to constantly hold ourselves back from going too fast.


I was warned ahead of time that the first few miles weren’t in the best area of Savannah, but I didn’t see that all. Instead, what I did see, were neighborhoods pouring into the streets and cheering on every marathoner and half marathoner as they ran by. The people were so enthusiastic and so welcoming of the runners that their energy only inspired me to run faster.

Honestly, the whole race course wasn’t very interesting, but the spirit of Savannah and the people that live here really made the race. I just wished that support had been consistent through the whole course and not just bits and pieces of it.


The spectators weren’t the only friendly faces along the course, Ben and I chatted it up with a lot of our fellow runners as well. Ben wore his Country Music Nashville shirt and we had at least a dozen runners come up and ask if Ben was from Nashville or ask how the race was. We also made similar conversations with people who wore shorts of races we have done (or want to do). Everyone was all smiles and in chatty moods. The experience reminded me why I love runners and races. These people weren’t elitest runners, just ones that enjoy the sport and enjoy chatting with other runners who love it as much as they do.


At mile 10 we stopped and did something I’ve never done in a race before, we took a porta potty break. Truth was I had to pee when the race started and had been holding it for the last 10 miles. I kept thinking the feeling would go away if I ignored it or that I could go just one more mile when I saw the lines at previous porta potties. Finally Ben said he had to go too and we made the quick pit stop. It really wasn’t that big of a deal, but I felt like I had just ended my porta-potty-free streak. boo.


It wasn’t much longer after the porta potty break that we approached the half marathon/ marathon split and said good byes to our new half marathon friends. I was still feeling really good at this point and it didn’t even bother me knowing they were almost done and I wasn’t even halfway yet.


The race got pretty boring after the split. We took an on-ramp onto a highway that took us an exit up the road. It was a little erie being on a big open road on foot without many people or cars around. It was also very quiet and lonely.


When I packed for my marathon last weekend I left a lot of things out. I forgot a spybelt and ended up carrying my camera in my hands the whole time and I forgot race fuel. Luckily, Ben shared some of his with me. We ended up taking a Clif Shot Block every hour and I had a cup of Cytomax every other water station. The combination worked really well and kept my energy levels high through the race


It was mile 16 when I realized if we kept a 10:00 min/mi pace for the next 10 miles then we had a good chance of coming in well under 4:15! Whoa! I quickly told Ben this and mentally changed our original goal from 4:30 to 4:15. My legs felt awesome, Ben looked awesome, and we only had 10 miles left. We could totally do this.

However, as soon as I set this new goal our pace started to slow down. The miles were getting to Ben and we had to deal with some pretty nasty headwinds on our return.


Then, we hit mile 20 and Ben hit a hard wall. I pulled out all of the encouraging words I could come up with, but quickly realized Ben needed to be in his own mind at that moment. I pulled ahead slightly and told him to treat me as his rabbit and not let me out of his sight.


Miles 21-24 were NOT pretty. It was 3 miles of going up and down a deserted highway with no end in sight and a lovely headwind to boot. Ugh.

I kept casually checking over my shoulder for Ben and could see him just a few feet behind me. I was still set on the goal of 4:15 and knew we could do it even with the slightly slower splits.

Then I hit a water station and realized Ben wasn’t behind me anymore. He had stopped to walk and I had lost sight of him. When some of the volunteers noticed that I stopped to wait they told me I was only 2.8 miles from the finish and I would see him then. I told them I wasn’t leaving my brother behind and we were going to finish this race together. Slowly, but surely, I saw him make his way up and told myself I wasn’t going to let him give up.


I screamed. I yelled. I said dirty words. I knew Ben could do this and I wasn’t going to let him give up. If this meant that I had to push him across the finish line, then I was going to do it.

Ben threw his water bottle to the side and started saying something about his shirt suffocating him. He quickly shed his shirt and found his second wind. He was hurting, but he pushed through it and began to pick up his pace again.

After what seemed like an eternity we finally made it off of the highway and were on our way back to Savannah. The crowds began to fill in around us and I told Ben that Katy and Danielle were waiting for us at the finish line. He kept up the strong pace and just focused on the finish line.

With half a mile to go we really picked up the speed and at .1 miles we sprinted to the finish line.

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Official time: 4:16:16

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The finisher’s chute was short and just offered mini bagels, bananas, and fruit cups. I grabbed a mini bagel, but had one bite and quickly tossed it.


Then the pain sinked in. It was so bad I wanted to cry. At the end of every marathon I always get a rush of pain to my legs that’s intense and awful. We had to walk to gear check a good half a mile away and all I wanted to do is curl up in a ball and sway back and forth. The pain only lasts for 5-10 minutes, but when it’s there it’s awful. However, when it’s gone – it’s gone.


Thankfully Ben and I easily found Katy and Danielle (which was huge since none of our phones could make calls) and celebrated our accomplishments. (Katy and Danielle ran the half).


And I FINALLY saw the fountain that is such an icon of Savannah that it’s the main photo on the medal.


After our legs had time to recover from the race we went in the search of food.


We found a cute cafe that was filled with runners and smelled delicious almost as soon as you walked in the door.


We had a 20 minute wait, but it was worth it.


At this point I felt like I had recovered enough where If I didn’t get enough to eat that I was going to faint. I ordered a soup and sandwich combo, but requested the tomato bisque come out first so I could eat something (anything) before I fainted.


I polished off the soup, then started on my ham, brie, and apple baguette.


Just what I needed. I pretty much ate the whole sandwich in one bite. 🙂

Final Race Thoughts

I was really disappointed that we didn’t run through downtown Savannah more during the race. I’ve always heard that Savannah is this cute old southern town, but most of what I saw was on the outskirts of town and nothing that Savannah is really famous for. I felt like this course could have been Anytown, U.S.A and no one would have known the difference.

It was a fast course with good people, but it was definitely a boring course full of nothing by runners.

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