Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Knoxville Marathon

This past Friday, I flew down to Atlanta to race the Knoxville Marathon. Knoxville, TN is about 3 hours north of Atlanta and while they do have an airport of their own, I wanted to spend some time with my brother, Andrew, who lives in ATL. He had to work Friday night so we spent Friday day together then we met up again Saturday after he took a bus to meet me Saturday morning. Unfortunately, it rained the majority of the day Saturday so we didn't get to explore much of Knoxville, other than by car but we did go to Ijams Nature Park-which was third on Trip Advisor's things to do while in Knoxville. 

The stairway to nowhere

The "view" from Ijams
It was a nice little park but I don't know if it deserved that high of a ranking(or it just reflects poorly on the dearth of other activities to do). Another thing on the list was to visit the Sunsphere which looks kind of like the Stratosphere in Las Vegas and was built as part of the 1982 World's Fair. Unfortunately it was closed for construction. The Market Square was okay but paled in comparison to Andrew and my last trip together to Savannah where the same named square was considerably more lively.

However, we were able to make it over to the University of Tennessee's campus and actually was able to watch the Volunteer's football team scrimmage  which was definitely cool.

Volunteer Scrimmage: Offense vs Defense

We spent the evening watching March Madness while I tried to get to bed early so I could be somewhat rested for the next day's marathon.

Having Andrew with me made the marathon pre-race inconveniences so much easier. Instead of getting up extremely early to ensure finding a parking spot and having to deal with hiding my car keys, I was able to get dropped off right at the race start and we both were able to sleep in a bit later. As much as I knocked Knoxville in the previous paragraph, what they lack in tourist attractions they make up for with the marathon. This was an exceptionally well-run race with a probably equal runner to volunteer(or Volunteer?) ratio. For a smallish race, they had start-corrals which made seeding myself appropriately easy. Aids stations were well stocked and frequent and they even had a separate post-race room just for the marathoners. Finishing on the 50 yard line of the Volunteers' football stadium was also pretty cool.

Having half-marathoners also running the first half of the course with you, often means that I take it out too fast and then pay for it in the second half. Cognizant of this, I purposefully took it out slower than I would normally letting probably 100 people get out ahead of me.

This course is HILLY! I think there were only two miles in the entire race that didn't have either a steep incline or descent. There wasn't anything too long but there were certainly some steep little kickers. The marathon was also interesting in that it took you through all different parts of town so you could really get a good impression of it. While it didn't sway me so much as to see it was a nice town, after running the marathon, I could at least say it was a decent town and probably a pretty awesome place to train. And the fans were spectacular! At mile 7, I started seeing pictures of animals, followed by "a ___ goes" and then another sign with the corresponding sound. For example, a picture of a cow, followed by the "a cow goes" followed by a "mooo". The people making these signs must have seen Noah because it seems like they had every animal known to man. And since these signs were well planned out, you could never see more than 1 or two animals ahead of you. It kept me in suspense. And to my surprise, the last sign had a question mark, followed by "But nobody knows what sound a fox makes". As I crested the next hill, after over a mile of these signs, I came across several people in fox customs dancing with this song playing:

 I guess it was a fairly viral song but I hadn't heard it before. Nevertheless it made me crack up as I was running.

Although a few runners looked at me annoyed, one half-marathoner started laughing with me and we soon got to talking. Turns out she was a coach with Uta Pippins for the Chase Corporate Team and has done a lot of the same races I had. We chit-chatted for the next five miles and I was so engrossed in our conversation, I almost missed my turn for the marathon. Parting ways with her, I crossed the half marathon mark in 1:27:24 which got me a little panicked because that didn't afford me a large buffer for the second half if I wanted to get under 3 hours. Which was the goal. I was also now alone in a fairly steady headwind. I spotted four or five guys about a half mile ahead of me and I made it my goal to catch them over the next few miles. This did the trick. I had a challenge that was manageable and (between hills) visible which allowed me to push through those hard middle miles. I finally caught and passed about one a mile ending up catching a total eight runners in the second half of the marathon. I ended up pulling into the stadium to finish in a time of 2:54:24 which while not being my fastest marathon was definitely the best run one as I actually negative split the second half(if only by 24 seconds). I finished up 14th overall but one shy of an age-group award. Which was good because Andrew and I were headed to the Smoky Mountains and to Cherokee for some gambling at the Harrahs on the reservation.
Andrew in the Smokys
Or so we thought. After getting stuck in traffic in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge(the antitheses of National Parks) we finally made it in to the Smokys. Only to find that the Newfound Gap still had ice and snow so the road was closed. While we could take another route through the Smokys, it ended up not bringing us anywhere near the casino. The detour also cost us just enough time that by the time we found a sports bar, there was only 2 minutes left in the Michigan St-UCONN game which was enough time for Andrew to watch his remaining team lose it on a silly foul of a UCONN player behind the three point line.

We spent the rest of the night and all Monday hanging out in Atlanta, playing board games and hitting up Piedmont Park for some spontaneous exercises. Do you know how I know Andrew is related to me? By his quirky workouts(see one of mine). In addition to some relatively normal outside moves on the park, we proceeded to do a steam room routine at his Condo complex. Ten minutes in the steam room->1 minute cold shower->50 push ups in the steam room->1 minute cold shower->10 unilateral squats and 25 push ups. Yikes! It was what I imagine what would happen if a Cross Fit athlete ran Baden Baden. Either way though, I think it actually spend up my recovery because I am feeling pretty good today and am ready to take on the second part of my marathon challenge at Raleigh in less than 2 weeks.

That same weekend, Amber will be re-entering the world of "normal" triathlon with Florida 70.3. Should be a fun weekend to watch!

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