THE SHIRT THAT RACES! Race Report
Neil Sauder, doing the marathon on stilts to raise awareness for United Cerebral Palsy (he has CB and actually cannot walk without braces/crutches).
Race day, the weather was about 40 degrees, more than 10 degrees warmer than last year. The Shirt that Races went over another long sleeve wickaway shirt, but I do not like being cold so also had to wear my vest over both. Jan and I decided it was too warm for headbands, so I came up with a bandana and folded that down so I could still cover my ears. I'd had some sinus problems all week and I didn't want the stabbing ear pain I'd had for a few days. I also wore my Grand Rapids Marathon hat and gloves.
Jan picked me up from the gym at 7:20 and her dear husband drove us the mile or so to the race site. We had met up with Chiarunner at the expo the day before, and she had said she was going to walk to the start from home. I was worried more about her having to walk home after the race, so I was surprised to run into her within a few minutes of lining up. She said she had driven, which was a smart move. Its one thing to run 26.2 miles in one day, but quite another to have to walk another 2 or more after!
The Grand Rapids Marathon has celebrity pace teams, and Chia decided she was going to try to stick with the Al Gore team, running 4:58. Those pacers are great. They are so right on with their timing its unbelievable. And when the race started, off she went with her group. Jan and I had decided to run 8, walk 2, a little more aggressive for Jan than she had planned, but I really wanted to do better than last year and also didn't want to be out there longer than I had to. My hip had started really bothering me on Thursday, going from a sharp ache to a dull one, but still noticeable. And as I had said about the sinus thingy going on all week, Saturday I woke up with my left eye itching so bad I could hardly stand it, and then spent the rest of the day with a dull headache as well and I was exhausted. I had been getting up at 4:30 am all week to get to work early for preparation for a trial that starts today, so I guess it caught up with me on Saturday. I was still feeling fatigued Sunday as well and I had this post nasal drip thing going on to the point where I constantly felt like I had a clogged throat. So all in all, I wasn't feeling that great but we were here and we were going to run.
The race started at 8 am, and sunrise was at 8:01, so by the time we actually crossed the start line, it was finally getting light enough out to see where we were going. I had been comfortably warm at the start of the race while Jan was cold, but now my fingers were almost numb with cold. Fortunately that didn't last too long. But I did have to go to the bathroom, something we had been unable to do before because the lines were so long. We passed the first portajohn and I thought it was occupied but realized too late it wasn't or I could have ducked in and out quickly and been on our way. Instead, I was forced to stop at the second one, and there was a line there, eating up about 3 minutes extra of time. I knew I wouldn't make it the whole way without having to stop, so it was a necessity. It was here too that I first noticed my hip was aching if I stopped, but I said nothing. I didn't want to think about that right now and was hoping for the best the rest of the race.
Because of this stop, we altered our walk breaks to catch up the lost time. I'm not sure whether that was a smart move or not because at this point we were approaching the only hills on the course, from miles 3 through 5.5. I had brought my own water bottle this time so I kept going at the water stops, but Jan stopped, walked through, and ran to catch up with me. By the time we were in the hills, I was realizing I was not having a good breathing day. Not my chest, but through my nose. It was dripping so bad I had to constantly blow my nose, so by the end of the race, my nose was bright red and almost raw. But we still were doing okay with our time, coming close to our predicted mile pace give or take 30 seconds each time. You enter the park at 6 miles and hit 7 miles before leaving it, because they have you wind along and around the paths. Its probably the most scenic area of the whole race route. Here they gave out gummy bears instead of Gu or something else. Just another nice touch about the race.
Once we left the park, we came across another woman from work, and she had started her walking. She had said she was only going to run 6 or 7 miles and walk the rest. Still, we were surprised she was so far ahead of us during the first half of the race. We weren't that slow, and we constantly played catch up with a younger woman who seemed to be doing run 5, walk 1--first she'd pass us on our walk break, then we'd pass her on hers. This went on until we reached the turnoff point for the marathon. But we did come across 3 or 4 other groups doing the same thing: first we'd pass them on their walk breaks, then they would pass us on ours. We were all together until mile 10 when things started falling apart for me somewhat.
My legs actually felt okay on the run intervals, but my hip ached on the walking. Still I said nothing, but it was obvious I was holding Jan back and I felt bad about that. I told her this repeatedly, but she kept saying don't worry about it. But I did! Shortly after 10 miles, the first marathoner was coming through. This was almost a mile sooner than last year's winner, but I still had no concept of what his time would be.
Miles 10-12 were a real struggle, both mentally and physically now. Jan tried to talk me through it and was talking about this and that, but it just wasn't helping. I knew we would not make our goal time now and really didn't care almost, but like I said, I felt bad for holding her back. Now our walk breaks were becoming more frequent, but I was having trouble focusing mainly. By the time we got to 12 miles I was so relieved to know it would be over soon! And for the next 1/2 mile or so, there were cones, so I suggested to Jan that we run 10, walk 1, which actually stretched to walk 2, but it got me through that part of it by giving me something to focus on other than my own discomfort.
After that, it was light post to light post. I could not catch my breath for more than a minute or two, and I felt bad here again, knowing Jan could do better without me. Finally I told her, you just go, I'll be alright. She was reluctant to leave me, but I could tell she wanted to keep going. So she trudged on ahead, and I continued sprinting almost to one light pole, and walking to the next, right up to the last 200 yards, where I picked up the pace and headed to the finish line. It actually felt good to be running fast, and think it helped. I think Jan was surprised too that I was almost right behind her when she finished! We both ended up with almost the same time: 2:44:43 for me and 2:44:40 for her.
A funny thing about Jan though. She had originally signed up for the marathon but deferred down to the half because of her collarbone. But they didn't change her number, so she still had a marathon number. We talked about the fact that when she finished someone was going to think she was the first woman marathoner, and sure enough! The TV cameras were there rolling and people were clapping and whistling as she came down the finish chute. I actually heard someone say, "it couldn't have been the first woman or she would have stood out more," meaning obviously she would have more fanfare approaching the finish line. The race director even asked her, "did you do the marathon?" We had a good laugh over that, and I think that made her day.
So the Shirt that Races made it through its innaugural run on a bright, sunny, crisp autumn day in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Who is wearing it next??