Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2011 Rocket City Marathon

Once again I had the priveledge of directing the Nike Fleet Feet Pace Teams for Rocket City Marathon and also running one the pace groups.  Last year provided a unique challenge as I paced the 3:40 group just six days after racing California International Marathon.  This year I had a few weeks to recover after the New York City Marathon, but was also tasked with pacing the 3:10 group (7:15 pace).

I find it rewarding personally to sacrifice my time and offer up my skills as a runner to help others realize their goals.  The temperatures where ideal, while I knew that the wind was going to be a challenge in the second half as the course turned back toward the finish.  As such, my plan was to be about a minute ahead of pace at the half way mark, which I felt would give the group the best chance to finish under the goal time.  Each mile I watched the pace and tried to coach the runners on what to expect with the course, fueling, tangents, etc.  Rolling through 13.1 miles we were right on at 1:34:08 as we ran south bound on Bailey Cove.  I was very happy to see that we still had a group of about 25 people running together.

As expected, the futher we ran, the small the group got as slowly runners fell off of pace.  I tried to let them know that based on experience that that the turn onto Bailey Cove would be directly into a headwind and that we needed to run single-file, stride for stride staying together and drafting.  I began to work a lot harder driving into the wind to stay even pace, but most of the runners fell behind.  By the time I made the turn through the neighborhood and approached the hill on Chicamauga Trail, none of my original group remained.

I had picked up several new runners that had gone out ahead of schedule and now slowed down.  I carried a few of them for several miles at a time and one even stayed with me step for step through to the finish! (48 year old Robby Callahan of Prattville, Alabama)

I slowed slightly through the hills (from miles 21-25) but still stayed on overall pace and proudly finished at 3:09:29, staying mostly even (1:34:08 / 1:35:21) in the first and second halves.

Robby did say to me toward the end "that this must be easy for you guys".  I laughed a little... running a marathon is never easy, not matter what the finishing time is when you have to run even pace, especially on a course that has some rolling hills and a headwind in the last 10 miles.  Yet on this day, that was my job and I gladly accepted the challenge!


As for the Nike Fleet Feet Pacers, I am glad to report that their average was being UNDER by 42 seconds with some staying under by as close as 5, 7, 9 and 15 seconds to their goal time. Jay Lloyd even went as far as running even first and second half splits of 1:47:05/1:47:05. While not many runners stayed with the pace group leaders after mile 15 (turn into the wind) the pacers stayed even through to the end. This was tough to "leave" the runners as they slowed, but other runners (ahead) were also counting on the pacers to come in right on pace. A couple pacers just missed their times but wasn't due to fitness, but to watch/GPS issues and we did not have any complaints that I heard in these areas.

I am very proud of this team as running even pace for 26.2 miles doesn't just happen on race day; it takes practice and months of training. Many of these pacers have already asked to be involved next year. I think they felt this personally rewarding to put others needs and goals above their own.

PacerPace GroupChip TimeDifference
Dewayne Satterfield3:053:04:2931 seconds under
Eric Charette3:103:09:2931 seconds under
David O'Keefe3:153:14:4515  seconds under
Brett Addington3:253:24:3525  seconds under
Eric Patterson3:303:29:0951  seconds under
Jay Lloyd3:353:33:571 minute 3  seconds under
Adam Swann3:403:39:3426 seconds under
David Rawlings3:453:44:537  seconds under
Katie Maehlmann3:553:55:5050 seconds over
Christy Scott4:003:57:352 minutes 25 seconds under
Tom Gale4:104:11:001 minute under
Bryan Campbell4:254:24:0159 seconds under
Linda Scavarda4:254:24:519  seconds under
David Coon4:404:39:555 seconds under
Shawn Smith4:404:40:077 seconds over
Suzanne Erickson4:554:54:0357 seconds under
Carrie Wilson4:554:54:0357 seconds under