Savannah Rock n’ Roll Marathon: Training & Race Recap
First off, I owe you an apology. My weekly training recaps disappeared and, frankly, it’s because my weekly training plan disappeared. Around mid-September my schedule went nuts and it became increasingly difficult to stick to my training plan. And then I started to get sick and running became the least of my priorities. When the combination of running while traveling caught up with me I threw in the towel.
This is all to say that my last month of training was dismal. The furthest I ran was 18.3 miles and that was fraught with nausea and exhaustion. In the days leading up to the Savannah marathon I considered all the possibilities- dropping out, not finishing, finishing with a completely abysmal time, hurting myself… I was not planning optimistically.
However, thankfully, when the race day came I pulled it together. I ran with my friend Matt (who is in infinitely better shape than I am but still a kind and enthusiastic running partner) and our goal was to finish somewhere around 5 hours. We had similar marathon PRs, and we felt confident that this was our race. This was going to be simple, a fun challenge.
For the first 11 miles I felt confident this was my race. I felt great, I was on fire, it was a breeze. The atmosphere was high energy, Matt was easy to talk to and run with, my body felt good. And then, like a flip was switched, everything changed. At the 11 mile mark of the Savannah R&R marathon the half marathoners split off towards the finish and the full marathoners continue on. The full marathon course then veers from a shaded downtown area full of energy and live music to a quiet, hot, desolate freeway. In an instant we went from feeling like we were on top of the world to feeling totally alone in the realization that we had 15 more miles to go until we were finished. This was the low point. This is where it got hard.
When I ran the Wrightsville Beach Marathon in March I employed a walk/run technique wherein I ran 9 minutes, walked 1. This allows the body some rest while also giving clear limitation and setting expectations for how much you need to accomplish at once. It’s not a perfect system, but it worked for me. This race, there was no walking until Mile 16. Then we walked briefly to eat a granola bar. At Mile 20 we walked again for a moment so that I could finish my granola bar. This was the furthest I’d ever gone without walking, every step was a new adventure. My thighs were on fire.
At Mile 23 we rounded a corner and came up on the entrance ramp of the freeway. By that time my body had been screaming at me to STOP WALK LAYDOWN GO TO SLEEP NEVER MOVE AGAIN for roughly 10 miles, so seeing that hill was more than I could take. I’d told Matt at Mile 21 that if he wanted to take off and finish without me, I would be okay, and on the entrance ramp that’s what happened. He sped off into the distance and I slowed down. Walked. Took a bathroom break. Stretched. It was exactly what I needed.
After a break the final 3 miles were a breeze. At the Mile 24.5 water stop (the last one) they had ice in the sport drink and it was as though it were a gift from the gods. I walked through that aid station blessing people left and right. That ice gave me super powers. That ice is what got me to the finish line with a smile on my face and pep in my step. Bless that ice and the people who put it there.
All in all, this was a great race. However, I think this is my last fall marathon. Training during the summer (hot) and fall (busy) was difficult and I felt like I couldn’t commit 100%. Being sick didn’t help, but I think I will shoot for winter and spring races from here on out. The experience of the Savannah Rock and Roll, beyond that terrible split at mile 11, was fantastic. It was an upbeat and well organized race and I would absolutely participate in another R&R. Although marathon directors should REALLY take a tip from the ultramarathon directors and offer more nutrition than sport drink and goo. Because 1) fuck goo and 2) PICKLES.
In addition to the feeling pretty great on race day I also recovered more easily than expected. I was very sore Saturday (race day), pretty stiff Sunday, a little stiff Monday, and totally fine by Tuesday. I haven’t had any latent issues (last time I got a batch of blisters that cropped up a few days afterwards), and I didn’t even have to take an ice bath. Which was a major win.
This was also a bit of a bittersweet race because it will likely be my last marathon for a while. On the Friday before race day my doctor told me that if I’m at all interested in having kids (which, yes, that would be nice) I need to stop running so damn much. My goals for next year are a couple of half marathons and maybe a sprint triathlon, but I’ll be putting my marathon aspirations on the backburner. For now, at least.
In summary, R&R marathons are fun. Running on freeways sucks. Training in the winter > training in the summer. I ran a really long way without stopping and a really really long way without stopping much. I’m pretty fucking proud of myself.